Luke Rafferty | Staff PhotographerVolleyball
Syracuse wraps up nonconference schedule with gritty win over Niagara
Nonconference play ended on a positive note for Syracuse.
The Orange evened its record at 8-8 with a 3-2 win over Niagara (6-8) on Wednesday at the Women’s Building in front of 210 fans. Syracuse jumped out to an early lead and battled the Purple Eagles for the tough five-set win, ending a three-game losing streak.
Syracuse controlled the tempo of the first set and never trailed at any point. Niagara pulled to within one point when the Orange led 18-17, but a kill by freshman Monika Salkute bumped Syracuse’s lead to 19-17. A kill from sophomore Nicolette Serratore pushed Syracuse to 20 en route to a 25-22 set victory.
“I just tried to come out and give the team as much energy as we could,” Serratore said. “I wanted us to just come together and play as one. I just wanted to do my part, play my role and hopefully everyone else would come together and we did.”
Niagara and Syracuse exchanged leads in the early stages of the second set. The Purple Eagles led 5-1 but the Orange rallied to tie the score at eight. From there, SU climbed to an 11-10 lead courtesy of an out-of-bounds hit and kills from sophomore Emily Betteridge and senior Samantha Hinz.
The Purple Eagles eventually pulled ahead to take the set 25-21. SU then edged the Purple Eagles in the third set, and the teams traded momentum in the fourth set. Tied at 17-17, Niagara and Syracuse battled until Niagara finally won 29-27 to force a fifth set.
Syracuse dominated late in the fifth because of strong play from Serratore, who recorded three kills as part of a 5-0 scoring run for Syracuse. The 15-10 set win won the match for the Orange in its final tune-up before conference play.
Head coach Leonid Yelin noted the difficulty of putting the best lineup on the court due to injuries. Without junior middle blocker Lindsay McCabe, who is likely out for the season, Yelin has had to shuffle his lineup to find one that works well.
“We have to change the lineup so many times because there are so many injuries,” Yelin said.
Betteridge said the team reacted well to the changes on Wednesday.
“I think it really helps because it catches the other team off guard,” she said. “I think we made them work. We didn’t freak out. We just played calm and did what he said to do, and it worked for us.”
Freshman Gosia Wlaszczuk helped fill McCabe’s void for the Orange. She recorded 13 kills and 15 digs. Sophomore libero Melina Violas had a career-high 29 digs.
Syracuse will face Big East opponents the rest of the way, and Yelin knows it will be a challenge for his team.
“What’s happened in this conference in the last two or three years or so, the teams at the bottom got much better,” Yelin said. “Unfortunately we are here and down three key players.”
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