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With a 17-14 lead in the third set against Boston College, Syracuse was looking for its first win of October. The Orange already had 10 blocks, and outside hitter Marina Markova went up for another one after an Eagles serve. But unlike Markova’s past three successful blocks, the ball deflected off her right hand and headed toward the bleachers.
Yuliia Yastrub, directly to the right of Markova, leaped and extended her right arm to save it. Her flailing attempt inched its way over the net, and Syracuse went on to win the point on its next possession.
In a strong offensive and defensive showing, the Orange (3-4, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) ended their four-game losing streak with a win in straight sets against Boston College (0-5, 0-5). SU had 10 blocks, in addition to 43 kills.
Syracuse substituted frequently in previous games, with outside hitters Naomi Franco and Viktoriia Lokhmanchuk playing a lot in last weekend’s double-header against Louisville. But against Boston College, head coach Leonid Yelin said he didn’t want to adjust the lineup as often, instead expecting his players to fix their mistakes instead of coming off the court.
In particular, Yastrub, who would normally be subbed many times per game, had 12 digs, five kills and four blocks on the night. With a 17-16 lead in the first set, Yastrub found offensive success in what’s normally outside hitter Polina Shemanova’s spot on the left side of the court, getting a kill that catapulted a 4-0 run for the Orange. Syracuse won the first set 25-21.
This strategy of fewer substitutions allowed players to focus on individual growth instead of worrying about the score, Yelin said. Sophomore captain Abby Casiano said it was important that the team stayed loose before and during the game.
“I remember just going to a few of my teammates and just having a little dance session before the game because it’s really hard to play really good when you stress,” Casiano said. “It always seems to work out better when you stay calm and have fun.”
In the second set, though, Syracuse struggled to finish points during long rallies. Throughout most points, the ball stayed close to the net, with almost no balls even reaching the back row.
The Orange trailed 12-13 at one point in the second set, and despite a diving dig from Lauren Hogan and a rare block from setter Elena Karakasi, they were unable to finish the point. A block deflected off an SU player and landed out of bounds. Syracuse eventually won the set 25-22, but it trailed for the entire first half of the set.
Compared to previous games, the Orange had more variability in their main scoring options. For the first time this season, Shemanova didn’t lead the Orange in kills — instead, it was Markova with 12.
The team was constantly able to get quick sets in the middle because of good passes after the first touch on defense, Yelin said. Syracuse trailed 6-8 in the third set, but with digs from Karakasi, Hogan and Yastrub all in that point, it was able to cut down Boston College’s lead with a kill from Ella Saada to end the point.
But the team relied too much on its middles, players who shouldn’t be the primary offensive weapons, Yelin said.
“They were really carrying us,” Yelin said. “We need more from our outside hitters, especially Shemanova and Yastrub. If we want to win big, we need much more from them.”
Markova utilized a slide set throughout the entirety of the match, especially in key moments such as the final points of the first two sets. Shemanova, who finished with only six kills, still assisted her offensively through communication, Markova said.
“(Shemanova) was very helpful,” Markova said. “When I was right in the air, she was screaming all the time where there’s an open spot and where to hit. I was hearing her scream ‘line,’ and I did what I did when I could.”
In the beginning of the third set, the Orange were down 4-7, one of its largest deficits of the night. On their serve return, Karakasi set the ball, and Markova stepped behind her to attempt yet another slide set.
The entire Boston College defense shifted to its left to try and dig Markova’s hit. But with the help of Shemanova, Markova knew exactly where to aim the ball when she was in the air: down the line. Without an Eagles’ player anywhere near the ball, Syracuse had all the momentum it needed to win the set and the match.
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