Luke Rafferty | Staff PhotographerVolleyball
Defensive inconsistency costs Syracuse in loss to Pittsburgh
Syracuse knew it had to play well at the start of its Big East schedule to prove it was worthy of playing in the postseason. So far, SU’s struggles in conference play are not helping that cause.
Although the Orange (9-11, 1-4 Big East) pulled off a 3-2 win on Friday against South Florida, it couldn’t close out the weekend on a positive note, losing 3-0 to Pittsburgh (11-9, 2-4) in the Women’s Building in front of 310 fans on Sunday. The challenge of finding a consistent libero cost Syracuse another conference loss.
Freshman Silvi Uattara had 15 kills, and sophomore Andrea Fisher finished with six. Sophomore Nicolette Serratore led the Orange with nine digs, while senior Zoe Guzman and freshman Gosia Wlaszczuk both had eight.
The Orange has played strongly coming out of its timeouts in recent matches. When the Panthers led 18-14 in the first set, Syracuse head coach Leonid Yelin called timeout to try to regroup his team, hoping to give it a chance at an attack.
Pittsburgh won the first point out of the timeout, but Syracuse stayed with it. SU cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 20-17, but when the referees made a questionable inbounds ball to the disagreement of Yelin, the Panthers gained momentum and ran away with a 25-22 set win.
“To me, it didn’t seem right,” Yelin said of the call. “But in the end, it didn’t really matter.”
Pittsburgh went on to control the entire second set. Syracuse jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but Panthers head coach Toby Rens called a timeout, and from there Pitt ran all the way to a 25-16 set win, prompting Yelin to make some changes at the libero position.
Yelin replaced Serratore with Guzman for the third set.
The entire team showed sloppy play and careless errors in the third set, contributing to a 25-18 set loss.
Still, even when the Orange trailed 24-15, it gave one final push. Syracuse won the next three points to inch the score to 24-18, but Pittsburgh came out of a timeout ready to close it out. The Panthers did exactly that, winning the next point to seal the match.
Serratore had 13 digs at the libero position on Friday against South Florida, but Yelin continues the search for a consistent defensive specialist. A down performance on Sunday amplified the need for stability at libero.
“We are changing because none of them give us any consistency,” Yelin said. “We tried both of them (Serratore and Guzman) because Nico was here. In practice, we were looking at Nico. She’s a good player all around but she couldn’t give us consistency all around.”
Serratore said a loss of focus was the reason Yelin swapped liberos.
“He’s just trying to find the libero that will be there for every single game,” Serratore said. “He just wanted to give me a break and let Zoe come in, and she did a great job. She went in there relaxed.”
Guzman said she was not pleased, as she thinks she could have done better. The team has had difficulty finding consistency at libero.
“We’ve been struggling to find a mentally strong person to stand out there and last the whole game,” Guzman said.
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