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Friday, Nov 24, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Volleyball Loses to Louisville on Senior Day

By Adam Unger

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Everything was going right for Syracuse. The team headed into the locker room after winning its second set of the match, 25-23. It was about to be business as usual.

But Louisville had other plans.

Louisville came back from down two sets to none to defeat Syracuse in five sets on Senior Day.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain the whole match,” head coach Leonid Yelin said. “We could pretty much stay in the game plan within the first two [sets].”

The Orange was in control throughout those first two sets. A 5-0 run behind serves from freshman Ella Saada helped Syracuse to a 27-25 win in the first frame.

However, in the second set, Saada began to struggle. At one point, she had just one kill compared to five attacking errors. Yelin pulled her from the match with Louisville leading 9-7 in the second set, and she didn’t see the floor again until after the break.

“Mariia [Levanova], who came off the bench, she really helped us win the second game,” Yelin said. “The numbers… for a short time show what [Mariia] did and what Ella did, she definitely helped us… It’s something I have to think about.”

While Saada took a step back, senior middle blocker Amber Witherspoon took two steps forward. She recorded 12 kills and nine blocks against Louisville, both of which led the team.

“Because we’ve been home, we were comfortable on our own court,” Witherspoon said. “We were playing such a big team that we were feeding off of their energy and their intensity.”

Louisville came out swinging in the third set. Sophomore outside hitter Melanie McHenry had six of her match-high 20 kills in the third set alone.

The fourth set was the most one-sided frame of Friday’s match. Louisville jumped out to a 7-2 lead, prompting Yelin to call a timeout. Later, a Maggie DeJong kill stretched the Cardinals lead to 18-12, forcing him to call another.

“There’s nothing else you can say… Just keep fighting,” Yelin said. “If a team steps up, you’ve got to step up at least to their level. If you want to win, you have to step up to an even higher level.”

The Cardinals came away with a 25-15 victory in the fourth set.

Christina Oyawale started off the fifth set with a kill that was assisted by Jalissa Trotter. The 1-0 lead was Syracuse’s first since winning the second set.

The Orange ultimately came up short. Louisville went on a 5-0 run en route to a 15-12 fifth set victory.

“I hope this isn’t my last game,” senior defensive specialist Belle Sand said. “That’s all I’m thinking.”

Syracuse finishes the season with a record of 21-12 (12-8 ACC). The future of the Orange’s 2017 season is in the hands of the selection committees for the NCAA Tournament and the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. Both tournament fields will be filled on Sunday, November 26th.