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Sunday, Sep 23, 2018 at 6:47 pm

Syracuse defeats Clemson to improve to 2-0 in ACC play.

By Justin Paura

CitrusTV Volleyball Reporter

SYRACUSE, N.Y.– Coming off their home opener against Georgia Tech, Syracuse (6-4, 2-0 ACC) was feeling good about their start to conference play. They showed everything Friday night: domination on the defensive end, resilience with a clutch comeback in the second set and great hitting from all sides. That momentum was carried into Sunday’s match against Clemson (9-6, 0-2 ACC), as the Orange toppled the Tigers in four sets; 25-20, 25-18, 20-25 and 25-21.

“We were watching film for [Clemson’s blockers], so we knew how they’re going to play,” senior setter Jalissa Trotter said. “This is what we need to do.”

The Orange improve to 2-0 in ACC play for the first time since 2015. Offense was the key to the game as freshman Polina Shemanova (14), sophomore Ella Saada (11) and senior Amber Witherspoon (11) all had double-digit kills. Saada made her presence on the floor known after failing to record a single kill Friday night.

“I think I’m trying to build my confidence on the court,” Saada said. “Sometimes it’s not working, sometimes I’m better. I’m working on it.”

Hitting was a major plus for the Orange and a big weakness for the Tigers. SU had the advantage in kills (57-51) and hitting percentage (.310-.178).  The only number that Clemson had more of was attacking errors (27-18).

“It’s more of a credit to [our players],” head coach Leonid Yelin said. “[Clemson] are a really young team and they have to make up for a lack of experience, a lack of size. They play at a really fast tempo, especially against us, a good blocking team. So they have to play fast paced and they did.  There is so much less time to get spot, to get time…they pushed us to a limit, something that we weren’t used to.”

“Normally we have a pretty good block and going into teams like that, they try to do a lot with their offense because we have a good block,” Trotter said. “I think that when we close a block, you know we block them a couple of times, they get nervous and try to mix it around a little bit.”

Not only was it a solid win for SU, but they also got one of their starters back. Senior Christina Oyawale came back from an ankle injury Sunday for the first time since the team’s second match of the season against UConn. She racked up four kills and three blocks in her return.

“I was comfortable getting right back…like I never left.” Oyawale said. “My team was there to support me and I was back. We did what we needed to do to win.”

SU has all week to enjoy their first two ACC victories, but this upcoming weekend presents the inaugural true road stand of the conference season. The squad is heading to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest Friday, then they travel east to for a battle at Duke Sunday afternoon.

@jpaura24 | jpaura@syr.edu