Luke Rafferty | Staff PhotographerVolleyball
Syracuse overcomes inconsistent play in five-set victory over Niagara
Syracuse looked lost trying to receive Niagara’s serves on Wednesday night. Players nearly collided reaching for the ball, and attempted digs dropped to the floor as the Orange scrambled to get into position.
The receiving woes came to a head in the second set when Niagara’s Kari Honomichl sent a blistering serve down the sideline for an untouched ace.
“Communication is a big part of volleyball, and when you lack that, things like that happen,” sophomore Melina Violas said. “Then you miss balls, and you look like idiots out there sometimes.”
Syracuse (8-8) adjusted after dropping the second set and did enough to edge the Purple Eagles (6-8) for a five-set victory at the Women’s Building. Consistent communication down the stretch helped the Orange overcome its sloppy play early. The team committed 21 errors in the first four sets, but limited its mistakes to two in the decisive set to end a three-game losing streak.
After Honomichl’s definitive ace in the second set, Syracuse made a concerted effort to receive the serves cleanly. The Orange shifted its lineup right during the set to counter her shots down the right sideline. Each time Honomichl served, three Syracuse players stood in a bunch during the serve, defending the sideline they left open previously.
Honomichl served down the line two more times, and the Orange stifled her. The Syracuse adjustment clearly flustered her for the remainder of the match as she hit four service errors while trying other parts of the court.
“It was just knowing where to be and standing their ground,” SU assistant coach Stephanie Cantway said. “They were just communicating and working together.”
Early in the match, players were trying to become more familiar with each other. Injuries to veterans Lindsay McCabe and Laura Homann forced the coaching staff to shift lineups throughout the game.
Outside hitters Samantha Clarey and Nicolette Serratore played out of position during lineup shifts. Clarey played much of the game at middle blocker when Syracuse was struggling to slow the Niagara attack. Serratore established a defensive presence in the fifth set.
The changes affected SU’s performance on the court early in the match.
“They’re not used to serve-receiving with the same people and next to the same people,” Cantway said. “It’s going to lead to some communication errors.”
When the mixed and matched lineups began establishing chemistry on the court, the Orange started pulling away from Niagara. Head coach Leonid Yelin stuck with a consistent lineup for the entire fifth set. The six players meshed, although some of them weren’t playing their natural positions.
Serratore sparked a 5-0 run for the Orange with three consecutive kills. Freshman Gosia Wlaszczuk contributed two crucial kills early in the set. Emily Betteridge, the starting setter who returned from injury in Saturday’s loss to Marquette, put the match away with an ace.
Syracuse has been struggling to find the right lineup due to injuries. Though this isn’t the lineup SU wants to use, it worked Wednesday night.
The adjustments SU made paid off in the decisive final set and helped the Orange pull out a close win.
“They’re just trying to adjust to each other,” Cantway said. “We’re making sure they’re confident with who has what in what area of the court.”
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