Syracuse Goes the Distance with Duke; Loses after a Questionable Call
By Brad Klein
CitrusTV Volleyball Beat Reporter
After the Orange narrowly lost the first two sets, head coach Leonid Yelin took his team off the court for a closed door meeting. His girls re-emerged an entirely different team with energy that carried them to win the next two frames. However, the comeback fell short in the fifth set as Syracuse (4-7, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) fell 3-2 to Duke (8-9, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) on Sunday in the Women’s Building.
One moment decided SU’s fate late in that fifth frame: Head official Jeff McKinney ruled that Duke hit the ball three times instead of four. The confusion came from the interpretation that a touch by Duke outside hitter Peyton Schwantz was a block rather than a hit. Yelin only had one reaction to the call.
“It was four touches,” Yelin said.
This call was an especially tough pill for SU outside hitter Polina Shemanova to swallow as she posted her fifth double-double of the season with 18 kills and 16 digs. She pleaded with McKinney to reconsider the call but to no avail. Shemanova tried to see the positives after the game, looking at the loss as a blessing in disguise.
“Of course we’re disappointed, but this loss will just make us stronger,” Shemanova said. “We will build some conclusions out of it.”
Despite Yelin’s disappointment with the call, he doesn’t believe it was the dagger. He knows the Orange had chances to bounce back, but failed to capitalize on opportunities.
“Everyone can be happy and great when it’s going well,” Yelin said. “But what makes a great player? [One who] can overcome, very quick overcome. Not next game. During the same game, overcome. That’s what we keep telling them, but this is something the players have to find out how to do if they’re going to step up and play next level.”
Freshman outside hitter Marina Markova stepped up to another level. The Russian filled the gaping hole in the middle with Abigail Casiano still not 100% with her right hand injury and the inexperience among the other healthy middle blockers. Yelin was surprised to see Markova flourish in the role.
“We need somebody in the middle like her,” Yelin said. “I knew she would do well as a hitter. I was surprised how well she played because she didn’t practice it much.”
But, Yelin was most surprised by her blocking ability. Markova piled up 11 blocks in her first appearance in the middle, adding to her 13 kills for her first career double-double.
Setter Elena Karakasi stepped up her blocking game in the middle, totaling a career-high six blocks to go along with 43 assists and 12 digs.
The Orange have a tough test next week when they host No. 4 Pittsburgh on Friday.
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