Syracuse Ends Regular Season with Second Win Over Wake Forest
By Justin Paura
CitrusTV Volleyball Reporter
SYRACUSE, N.Y.—Don’t start celebrating just yet, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that Syracuse will compete in their first ever NCAA Tournament. Entering this weekend, the Orange ranked 27th in RPI and no team since the RPI system was created was denied a tournament bid with an RPI better than 37. Despite losing Wednesday to NC State, SU (18-8, 14-4 Atlantic Coast) closed out their regular season on a high note, taking down Wake Forest (10-20, 5-13 ACC) in four sets on Senior Day.
Things did not look great in the early going. The Demon Deacons picked their spots really well, led by senior Katie Moore and sophomore Olivia Saunders. They racked up 16 kills to Syracuse’s 11 and never surrendered the lead after going up 4-3. Wake took the set 25-22 as they staved off a late comeback attempt from the Orange.
The momentum completed shifted in the second set. Star freshman Polina Shemanova got going after a slow start, firing five kills in the second frame. She helped in Syracuse’s most efficient hitting set as the squad hit 43.5% while holding the Demon Deacons to a flat 0%. The Orange had a match-low two errors in route to a 25-17 win to even the match at one apiece.
In the third set, SU flexed its muscle and proved that they are a tournament ready team. They fell behind by as much as 18-13 and all signs pointed towards Wake Forest taking that critical 2-1 advantage. But with their backs against the wall, Syracuse showed out when it counted. They rattled off six unanswered points, including a pair of block assists from senior captain Santita Ebangwese, to take control 22-20. Shemanova capped off the set with a huge kill as the Orange gained the upper hand with a 25-21 victory.
By the time the fourth set came around, it became easy for Leonid Yelin’s squad. They dropped the two opening points of the set, but that would be the last lead that the Demon Deacons would hold. Santita Ebangwese hammered home four consecutive backdoor kills to ignite the home crowd and energize the team to the 25-16 win.
With the win, Syracuse matches their best conference record since joining the ACC at 14-4 and are in optimal position to earn a tournament bid.
The Orange finish the year 4th in the ACC, three spots higher than in 2017, placing behind Pitt, FSU and Louisville.
The NCAA Tournament Selection show is Sunday night at 8:30 p.m.
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