Syracuse Upset Pitt in a Nail Biter Five Set Match
By Leo Silverman
CitrusTV Volleyball Beat Reporter
Last season the Pittsburgh Panthers went a perfect 18-0 in ACC play, and with a returning core for the 2020 campaign, Pitt was crowned the number one time in the Preseason ACC poll.
Syracuse on the other hand finished last year’s in-conference play 9-9 after an injury riddled season. Returning eleven of thirteen players meant higher hopes for the Orange in 2020, as they were placed sixth in the Preseason ACC poll. So what did SU have for the consensus top brass of the ACC?
The very first set looked sloppy. With the Orange giving away a couple points on attacking and service errors to give the Panthers an early 9-5 lead. Syracuse still looked a bit rusty further into the set, trailing 17-12 after the offense couldn’t get consistent kills across the net. The favorites Pitt looked to be on top early, playing directly into the predictions of many for this game. Then, the spark ignited, and Syracuse began climbing back, making it 19-18 behind kills from Junior Polina Shermanova and Senior Ella Saada. In the end Pitt narrowly pulled out Set one 25-21, but Syracuse had found their mojo offensively.
Set two saw the Orange take advantage of an early Pitt service error with three straight kills from Polina Shermanova, putting SU up 4-1. SU would hold the lead behind red hot hitting from Shermanova, Saada, and Sophomore Marina Markova. After a service ace from Freshman Libero Lauren Hogan, Syracuse held a 14-7 lead. The Orange would keep Pitt behind seven or eight points the entire set, taking it 25-17. The most decisive set win of the match.
Set three saw nothing different early on. Junior Elena Karakasi continued to set the fierce Orange hitting up for success, tallying assist after assist with the Orange leading 11-4 early on. SU didn’t take the foot off the gas, continuing to go on long stretches gaining four or five points, looking to close out set three up 22-14. But you can’t count out a team as talented as Pitt. Senior Chinaza Ndee put on a hitting clinic that brought Pitt all the way back. The score was 24 all. SU was on the brink of blowing an eight point lead, but the Freshman Libero in her first start said no. Pulling off a beautiful dig she got the offense the ball again, winning the set for the Orange 26-24.
Set four was the closest of them all. Neither team lead by more than two points throughout the set, and it took extra points to decide a winner for a potentially match-clinching set for SU. In the end, the talented Panther’s muscled out a 27-25 win to force a win or go home Set five. Each point was worth so much more, and neither side would give more than a one point lead as the Orange trailed by one mid-way through the fifth. That’s when SU dug down deep and leaned on that potent offense that drove them in sets two and three to rattle off three unanswered points to go up, and never looked back. Syracuse won five handedly, 15-9.
Polina Shermanova stayed hot offensively, leading SU in kills with 20. Karakasi had a baffling 53 assists, her second-most ever. But it was the play of new Libero Lauren Hogan who lead all players with 21 digs that stole the show for the Orange on the defensive side.
Syracuse comes back to the Women’s Building tomorrow at 6 p.m. for game two against Pitt.
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