Which Volleyball Players Have to Step Up This Season?
By Nick Luttrell
CitrusTV Volleyball Beat Reporter
The Syracuse Volleyball team is set to begin its spring season this week. Similar to the fall, the Orange (4-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) will have an All-ACC schedule of 10 opponents and will open up the 2021 season at home against North Carolina (7-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast) on Friday.
After a rollercoaster of a season in the fall, SU must be more consistent this spring to have a chance to play in the postseason. Consistency for the Orange starts with three key players.
The first of these is freshman Lauren Hogan who has taken over the reins as libero after Aliah Bowllan graduated last spring. The Loveland, Ohio-native shocked a few people when she earned the starting position in week one over sophomore Berkely Hayes. But Hogan didn’t back down from the added pressure that came with starting her first collegiate match as an 18-year-old. In two upset wins over Pittsburgh to begin the season, Hogan racked up 36 digs, leading her team both nights.
After the completion of the fall season and back-to-back wins against Boston College, Hogan finished 2020 with 4.86 digs per set, putting her 8th nationally in that category. She also did an excellent job of taking care of the ball as she only earned three receiving errors through her first eight games. To put that in comparison, last year’s libero, Aliah Bowllan, recorded 13 receiving errors through Syracuse’s first eight ACC games. Indeed, the rising young star has been the best and most consistent player for Coach Yellin’s squad so far this season.
Less consistent so far has been the play of junior Polina Shemanova. Despite not having as much experience as someone like senior Ella Saada, she remains the leader of this team and, in the fall, was named team captain for the second year in a row.
Shemanova, a Russian native, shattered the record books at SU in 2018 including finishing the year with 447 kills, the most by any freshman in Syracuse Volleyball history. The very next season Shemanova had 485 kills, the fourth-most of all time in the history of the SU program.
Yet in the first half of this season (eight matches), she has tallied just 90 kills. While through eight conference matches the two previous years she had 153 kills (freshman year) and 149 kills (sophomore year).
Luckily for Shemanova, she has help in her former teammate from the St. Petersburg National Team – Marina Markova. While the 6 foot, 5-inch sophomore finished the fall season with a lower number of kills than Shemanova (67), she had nearly three times the hitting percentage at .350.
In fact, the starting middle blocker could be the X-factor that determines the outcomes of SU’s upcoming games. In the fall, when Markova had less than ten kills in the game, Syracuse was just 1-4. While the games when she had more than ten kills, the Orange were undefeated at 3-0.
What we know: Lauren Hogan is going to keep Syracuse close in many matches this spring. The biggest questions are now whether offensive weapons like Polina Shemanova and Marina Markova can remain consistent each night. If all three players can be at their best, this is a team that could make a run in the NCAA Tournament come this April.
The Syracuse Orange will open up the spring season inside the Women’s Building on Friday, March 5 at 3 pm against North Carolina. You can watch that game on ACCNX and follow @nickluttie on Twitter for live updates throughout the match.
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