Syracuse sweeps UNC for Yelin’s 100th Orange win
By Justin Paura
CitrusTV Volleyball Reporter
Junior Kendra Lukacs’ primary position for Syracuse has always been outside hitter. On Friday, when typical libero Aliah Bowllan was not fit to play after suffering an injury, SU head coach Leonid Yelin called her name to be the team’s defensive specialist for the night.
“I always just have the mindset to help the team wherever we need help,” Lukacs said. “I think that is something that I mentally need to prepare for.”
Lukacs finished the match with 11 digs and the Orange (11-6, 7-2 Atlantic Coast) picked up the 3-0 victory over North Carolina (5-13, 1-8). Lukacs found out she was starting five minutes prior to the first serve, Yelin said.
“The only positions we need to prepare her for are setter and middle,” Yelin said. “Other than that she’s ready to go.”
The move from Yelin aided in the efforts to get his 100 career win as the Orange head coach. They won the matches 25-23, 25-18 and 25-22 while hitting a season-best 36.5 percent.
“If you would ask me that 30 years ago, I would be jumping up and down,” Yelin said about the milestone win. “But I would trade all my wins to take this school in the postseason.”
Freshman Polina Shemanova and sophomore Ella Saada combined for 24 of SU’s 45 kills. Senior Amber Witherspoon led an intimating blocking attack with five kills as the Tar Heels failed to hit over 16 percent.
“After our loss this weekend, we realized that more energy, more effort is something we can put in against a team,” Trotter said. “It’s really important now that we push from here on out so that we don’t feel that same loss again.”
Yelin agreed with Trotter’s comments, commending his team’s efforts in Friday’s match.
“The hardest thing is just trying to overcome that loss,” Yelin said. “If you play hard, something good will happen. As long as we play hard, I can’t guarantee a win, but I can guarantee a good season.”
Syracuse outplayed UNC in nearly every aspect of the match. The Orange totaled more kills, blocks, digs and a higher hitting percentage while committing eight less errors. Their next opponent is NC State, who will be playing in their second match for their northeast road trip after defeating Boston College Friday.
It’ll be an opportunity for SU to finish a four-game home stand before hitting the road again, However, Witherspoon noted her team’s aspirations stretch further than the conference slate.
“The best mentality to have is ‘next game.’ You learn from your mistakes and you just focus on the next game,” she said. “We do have a bigger goal after the [regular] season is over.”
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