SU Starts Strong, But Stumbles in Toss Loss to USC
By Justin Paura
CitrusTV Volleyball Reporter
Milwaukee, WI—Friday night was a rough one for Syracuse (2-2, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) as the squad dropped its first match of the season to favored, No. 3 Brigham Young, and the Orange was the underdog once again as it faced No. 10 Southern California (6-3, 0-0 Pacific-12) in its second match of the Marquette Invitational Tournament. The possibility for an upset seemed very real after SU won the first two sets, but the Trojans stormed back and emerged victorious, claiming the last three sets by a commanding 23-point margin.
It was all Syracuse in the beginning. The team opened to first set on a 5-1 run and led the entire game outside of one play midway through. Freshman Polina Shemanova led the Orange attack, tallying seven kills. The UConn Tournament MVP finished the match with a team-high 20 kills and 54 total attacks. SU played crisply with only three total errors in route to claiming the set 25-22.
Syracuse rode its momentum into the second set. Shemanova electrified her team with a big hit to start the game and they secured a quick 6-1 advantage. USC trailed 19-14 before finally finding their stride, evening the game at 19 by forcing five straight SU attack errors. The teams would exchange blows up until 25-25, then senior Santita Ebangwese punched a kill and blocked a hit to achieve a commanding 2-0 lead.
The scene was set for SU to earn a big upset victory, but after the second set USC showed its worth. The Trojans hit 56 percent in the third set without committing a single attacking error. They dominated the serve and defensive battles at the net to take the third set with ease 25-14.
More of the same happened in the following set. Trojan sophomore Brooke Botkin dominated with seven of her match-high 28 kills in the set while her counterpart Khalia Lanier had four. Syracuse hit an embarrassing 2% in the game and the 25-14 loss set up a winner-take-all fifth set.
All momentum went out the window to make for a very competitive fifth set. There were five ties in the game and no team had any big statistical advantage. However, USC never let Syracuse take the lead and grinded out a 15-13 victory, winning the set and the match.
The Orange had a much better showing in Saturday’s game, but this one may sting a bit more considering how close it was to victory. Leonid Yelin and his team try to correct their losses in the final game of the Marquette Tournament Sunday afternoon against the hosts No. 25 Marquette at 1 p.m.
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