Volleyball

Syracuse struggling with service errors despite recent wins

Sabrina Koenig | Staff Photographer

Jalissa Trotter and Syracuse are trying to improve their serving in conference play. Despite winning four conference games, the Orange has struggled with serves.

Santita Ebangwese served the ball out of bounds. Instead of crippling North Carolina State, it led to another wasted opportunity in the first set in the Sept. 25 matchup.

Head coach Leonid Yelin quickly pulled the middle blocker out of the game. After she was pulled with Syracuse down, 15-8, the team didn’t recover and lost that set, 25-15, and eventually the game.

It continued what Yelin called a “painful” learning process that began after the team’s second game of the season against Colgate.

Since that game, the team is 5-11 and has won four conference games, but its serving problem has persisted. SU (5-13, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) is in the middle of its longest road stretch of the year. The team has struggled to serve the ball consistently.

The team has averaged 7.2 service errors per game on the season and have out-errored their opponents 130-119.

Yelin compared serving the ball to taking free throws in basketball. Players practice dribbling and taking deep breaths as they prepare to hit the ball to the opponent. However, even with practice, the execution is still lacking.

“It’s still more kind of mental,” Yelin said. “(You have to) hold yourself accountable for mistakes (when) you do it. It’s different form the club (teams) and high school when it’s mistake ‘it’s OK.’ (At) the college level it’s not OK.”

In four of the five games SU has won, it has had at least six service errors. Service errors have contributed to some of the Orange’s losses. Early in the season against then-No. 17 Penn State with Syracuse trailing, 23-22, a service error at the end of the first set by Dana Valelly led to a brief meltdown that led to a lost set. Syracuse never came as close to winning a set again and lost that game 3-0.

Syracuse beat Boston College 3-1, on Sept. 23 despite a season-high 16 service errors. Libero Belle Sand echoed Yelin after the N.C. State game and said practicing is the only way to improve serves as a team.

“We need to practice (serves) like we would in a game and I feel like that’s our hardest stepping-stone,” Sand said. “… It’s hard to put that (in-game) pressure on yourself because no one wants to feel that pressure.”

According to outside hitter Mackenzie Weaver watching film, as well as receiving pointers from her mother, a former assistant at Ohio State, has helped her improve her serve.

“After the games, she’s like ‘try this next time or try this next time,” Weaver said.

After watching the film on ESPN, she noticed what shots she or her teammates missed and what caused the miss. Sometimes it was lack of communication or being too quick. Most times it was a lack of velocity because of foot placement.

“If your feet are (around a foot far apart) you can’t get off the ground,” Weaver explained. “You have to keep your feet tight together like you’re taking an approach.”

As the team takes on correcting each issue, the ultimate goal is to improve steadily while still going back to the basics of the serve.

“You can’t go back there and think “I’m going to get an ace’,” Sand said. “… You kind of gotta start small and not aim too big, because that’s where you get errors.”

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