A Rollercoaster Ride: Looking Back at Syracuse Volleyball’s Fall Season

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021 at 5:37 pm by Sports Editor

By Nick Luttrell

CitrusTV Volleyball Beat Reporter

It was a rollercoaster of a fall season for the Syracuse Volleyball team. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 campaign for the Orange was pushed back a month later than normal. To begin the season, the Orange faced off against volleyball powerhouse Pittsburgh. Not only were the Panthers coming off a 30-2 season but they also hadn’t lost a conference game in nearly two years. While Syracuse, on the other hand, was coming off their worst season since 2016. 

The biggest question mark heading into the year was who would fill the role of former Libero Aliah Bowllan. That question was quickly answered by freshman Lauren Hogan who, not even 6 months into the program, earned the starting spot in SU’s first game. Hogan, along with a plethora of upperclassmen, steered the Orange to a five-set, thrilling win over Pitt.

Less than 24 hours later, the Orange came right back and put on an even more impressive show, sweeping the Panthers 3-0 (25-21, 27-25, 25-19). It had been an astonishing 1,413 days since Pittsburgh was last swept by an unranked opponent. 

Syracuse was not unranked for long. The very next week Coach Yellin found his squad as the 5th best team in the country – their highest ranking in recent years. It didn’t get any easier for his team as they would travel to play 6th ranked Notre Dame the next week followed by 9th ranked Louisville at Credit Union Arena. And although they were now one of the best teams in the country, the pressure seemed too much for the Orange.

In South Bend, the sixth-ranked Irish claimed the first two sets (25-20, 25-16) and seemed to be running away with the sweep but the Orange reclaimed the momentum in the third winning 25-20. And then a back and forth fourth set propelled by a late run by ND sealed the 3-1 win for the Irish. The next day, the Orange couldn’t seem to recover from the previous night’s loss as they fell 3-0 (25-18, 26-24, 25-16). It was an offensive heavy series in which Syracuse was over-matched by the Irish’s outside hitters, Charlie Niego and Carolina Meuth. 

The Orange were now halfway through the fall shortened season and were sitting at .500 in the conference. The roadshow continued the next week at ninth-ranked Louisville. The question now became which Syracuse team would show up in Kentucky? The powerful and quick team that knocked off Pittsburgh, or the team that couldn’t get the offense going against Notre Dame? 

By the end of the weekend, that question was answered as Syracuse was swept in back-to-back days by Lousiville. This Cardinal team was a squad that reached the quarter-finals last season and returned all of its starters. But for the Orange, it was a combination of Louisville’s dominance along with countless self-inflicted wounds. Coach Yellin’s team relinquished 33 total errors as well as a -.023 hitting percentage; both of which were season lows. 

After a start to the season that created a buzz across the campus of Syracuse University, the volleyball team suffered under high expectations and as a result, were swept in three straight matches. The 2-4 Orange finally returned home on October 16 where they desperately needed a win to end the fall season on a positive note. 

And won they did. Syracuse captured a back-to-back sweep of their own against a winless Boston College team. Coach Yellin’s players looked like the squad that was so hyped up to be a top 10 team in the country.

And thus, the Syracuse Orange finished the fall season at 4-4, including an undefeated record inside the Women’s Building. The spring season is just a week and a half away and will begin at home for the Orange against North Carolina on Friday, March 5 at 3 pm. 

naluttre@syr.edu | @nickluttie