Ella Saada Bounces Back in Win over Notre Dame
By Brad Klein
CitrusTV Volleyball Beat Reporter
For the past three matches, Syracuse (7-11, 4-7 Atlantic Coast) had been progressing. Abby Casiano and Dana Gardner were filling the hole in the middle with the injury to Marina Markova, Elena Karakasi was blossoming into one of the premier setters in the ACC, and Polina Shemanova continued to play as well as anyone in the country.
But with that progress, the Orange left behind one of their own. Ella Saada struggled with just seven kills against Florida State on October 20th, and only six kills the next weekend in matches against North Carolina and North Carolina State. It was her worst three-game stretch since September of last season.
That all changed on Friday night in Syracuse’s four-set win over Notre Dame (15-6, 8-3 Atlantic Coast).
Saada exploded against the Fighting Irish, tying her career-high with 21 kills. The junior also racked up eight digs. To break the funk, Saada says she just went back to the drawing board.
“Sometimes you just need to work more with your setter. It’s a lot of connection, and like, I worked with Elena more. We practiced what we did today in the game, and it worked.”
What Saada did during the game was overcome double and triple teams Notre Dame’s front line showed her all night. Fellow outside hitter Polina Shemanova says Saada was also able to play within the flow of the offense.
“I feel like today in transition we had more free balls and Ella could get out and run. That’s why it worked.”
Shemanova led the way with 22 kills and 18 digs for her eighth double-double of the year.
The Fighting Irish dominated the first set 25-14. Shemanova admits that’s not uncharted territory for the Orange. The first set tends to catch SU off guard.
“You’re not fully into the game. Of course, you’re practicing, but when it’s a real game, you’re still making some adjustments.”
But ultimately, the prize of beating a top-three ACC team like Notre Dame was too grand for Syracuse to pass up lying down.
“When you’re playing against a strong team like Notre Dame today, you kind of want to win much more,” Shemanova said. “When you’re playing against them, you’re like ‘Oh my God, maybe we can beat them.’ This is mostly psychological. You just have more power and the desire to win. After the first set, we just didn’t give up and were like ‘Let’s try.’”
Syracuse channeled that will to win in the second set, narrowly defeating Notre Dame 28-26. SU took four of the last five points. They rattled off the final four points of the next set in a 25-23 win.
At that point, the Orange had it under control.
“I tried to be a good cheerleader,” Head coach Leonid Yelin said.
The Orange led 2-1 heading into the fourth set and scored seven of the first ten points in the frame. SU never looked back; they won the game 25-19.
The victory is just the eighth time in 32 matches that Syracuse has defeated Notre Dame.
Next, the Orange will host Louisville on Sunday at 1 p.m.
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