Syracuse Set to Run it Back for an Uncanny Season

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2020 at 1:10 pm by Sports Editor

By Leo Silverman

CitrusTV’s Volleyball Beat Reporter

Syracuse Head Coach Leonid Yelin perfectly described the abnormal start to the 2020 season in Monday’s media opportunities. “It’s been a routine for years that now, it’s just broken.” said Yelin.

Syracuse begins a very unusual season, after an equally intriguing offseason with many question marks and uncertainties. One thing not up in smoke for Syracuse is its roster for the 2020 season. The Orange have 11 of 13 players returning from last year’s squad, which is sure to be a key factor for SU’s success going forward.

Of those 11 returning players, only one was named to the All-ACC Preseason Poll: Polina Shemanova. The Junior Outside Hitter comes off an impressive 2019 campaign that saw her finish with 485 kills, fourth all-time in Syracuse history. For those efforts Shemanova earned her first All-American bid, and shows no signs of slowing down this year. 

Shemanova will have Senior Outside Hitter Ella Saada to compliment her and round out a deadly Orange hitting core. Despite the rash of injuries that struck SU last year, Saada is yet to miss a game through her collegiate career for Syracuse.

Despite all of the familiar faces in the starting lineup, libero remains a question mark heading into the season. Syracuse is without former Libero Aliah Bowllan who graduated in the spring. Many expect Sophomore Berkley Hayes to start coming into the season, but Coach Yelin plans to lean on both Hayes and Freshman Libero Lauren Hogan throughout the campaign.

“Berkley got better, and we have another very good defensive specialist, Lauren Hogan who came.” said Yelin, “Those two are who we are going to rely on.”

SU’s nearly identical lineup has a much different schedule ahead of them. Due to COVID-19, the ACC delayed the beginning of the season nearly a month. On top of that, Syracuse plays only eight in-conference regular season games. The Orange play two games each against Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville and Boston College. 

All four of those teams finished above SU last season, with Louisville and Pitt both earning spots in the NCAA tournament. Louisville loses only one player from a 2019 squad that reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. Pitt on the other hand is 35-1 in the last two years of ACC play going undefeated in 2019. For Coach Yelin, SU’s schedule is nothing but a positive for the team. “From a competition standpoint, I think we have to be happy to play that kind of competition,” said Yelin.

Syracuse certainly has their work cut out for them this season, as they look to make their second NCAA tournament appearance in school history. The level of talent, especially in the hitting core, is there for the Orange to make a deep postseason run in a normal season. Sadly, this year is anything but normal and the competition SU has to face may squander any tournament hopes.

Syracuse kicks off their 2020 campaign at home against defending ACC champion Pitt this Friday at 5:00 p.m. | @LeoSilverman