Syracuse finishes season with commanding straight-set win over NC State

Corey Henry | Senior Staff Photographer

Syracuse ended its 2021 regular season with a straight sets win over the Wolfpack.

Trailing 5-3 at the start of the third set, Syracuse tried to take back control of the game from NC State. Setter Elena Karakasi fed outside hitter Marina Markova on the left side of the court, but as Markova lept high into the air, two Wolfpack defenders rose with her.

Still, Markova maneuvered past those two NC State blockers and the ball raced past the first row. An NC State defender in the back end tried to bump the ball back to Syracuse’s side, but it went out of bounds. Another NC State player tried to save the ball, but she was too late.

The Wolfpack couldn’t maintain control of the set or the overall game, falling to the Orange in three sets. Barring an unexpected selection to the NCAA tournament, Syracuse (17-13, 6-12 Atlantic Coast) made short work of NC State (15-13, 9-8 Atlantic Coast) in its last game of the season. When the two teams collided last month at SU, the Wolfpack won in four sets. But, Syracuse was more efficient in Wednesday’s matchup, recording a .317 hitting percentage compared to .197 when the teams met earlier this season. Markova finished with a .354 hitting percentage, and had over 20 kills in a game for the sixth time this season.

The first set was tight from the beginning, with no team getting out to more than a one point lead until 26 plays in. Throughout that back and forth period, Markova put together four kills. She strung two together consecutively when the Orange were down 6-5 in the set. Her first kill came off a set from Karakasi, which landed into Wolfpack setter Kristen McDaniel’s hands on the left side of the court. But because of the speed of Markova’s spike, McDaniel had no time to react.

On the next point, Karakasi found Markova again on the same side of the court. Markova hit the ball at an extremely high angle that only her 6-foot-5 frame could reach. The ball went straight down to the left corner of the Wolfpack’s side of the court, completely out of reach from any defender.


Syracuse eventually separated with a 16-12 lead after three straight attack errors from the Wolfpack. The Orange would never surrender this lead, but NC State stayed close the rest of the set. After more errors from NC State, SU finished the set with a kill from outside hitter Naomi Franco. The ball straddled on the left sideline and the referees ruled it in. Syracuse took the set 25-21.

Like the opening set, the second set remained close throughout. Ten of the Orange’s first 11 points were decided by kills, all coming from four different SU players. The Orange took a 10-8 lead through a smart play by Karakasi, who confused the Wolfpack defense and sent the ball over early. The ball landed right in the center of NC State’s side, out of reach from two diving players.

Although Syracuse never lost its lead completely, NC State tied the set at 16-16 a few plays later. The Orange responded by winning six of the next seven points to go up 22-17, eventually winning the set 25-19. During that run, Casiano and Karakasi both got service aces against the Wolfpack defense.

But in the third set Syracuse lost its monument, not gaining a lead till match point. The Orange were behind by a few points the entire set, while Wolfpack outside hitter Taylor Rowland kept her team in contention with 10 kills. Markova still matched that number, with 10 kills that mostly came in the last part of the set.

The Orange took their first lead of the set at 24-23 after a kill from Casiano, followed by a Markova strike that cut through the arms of two Wolfpack defenders for a kill of her own. But Syracuse stayed at match point five times before the game officially ended as both sides traded kills on six straight possessions.

With a 28-27 lead, the Orange were at match point for the sixth time and both teams looked noticeably tired. Shemanova served and a short rally ensued before NC State’s Melissa Evans rose up on the left side for a spike. But SU middle blocker Izzy Plummer predicted Evans’ attempt and jumped up with her to block the ball. Plummer hit it hard towards the empty center and won the set for Syracuse 29-27.

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