Syracuse loses in straight-sets to No. 3 Pitt after missed set point

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 11, 2019 at 11:53 pm Contact Alex: [email protected]edu | @alexhamer8 Heading into Friday’s match, Syracuse thought it had a chance. Despite coming off consecutive “frustrating” losses, the Orange had their best week of practice this season, assistant coach Derryk Williams said. The spirit and consistency Williams said SU showed in practice carried over into the first set against No. 3 Pittsburgh. Bolstered by the return of senior libero Aliah Bowllan, who had a game-high 16 digs, a fired-up SU squad flew around the court, constantly diving and digging balls out to keep rallies alive, often leading to Pitt attacking errors.Late in the first set, Syracuse found itself with a set point, up 24-23 thanks to a signature Marina Markova kill. She leaked out from the middle to the right side before spiking an Elena Karakasi pass over the outstretched arms of several Pitt players. On the next play, Karakasi had an opportunity to replicate the previous play, as Markova made an identical run, anticipating a Karakasi pass. Instead, Karakasi chose to pass left to Ella Saada, whose kill attempt was blocked, as Pitt went on to to take that point along with the next two, winning the set 26-24. “I wouldn’t consider it a missed opportunity, I would more consider it a learning point for us,” Bowllan said of losing the set point. “That’s one of the best sets we’ve played, probably this entire season, so I don’t think we can complain at all.” After escaping with the first set, Pittsburgh (16-1, 5-0 Atlantic Coast) never looked back, easily securing the next two sets as they defeated Syracuse (4-8, 1-4). The Panthers came in riding a four-game winning streak. Conversely, the loss marked the third straight at home for SU, and now with four conference losses, SU now has as many as last season. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn the first set, the Orange didn’t out-hit Pitt, but recorded 16 kills despite posting a .140 hitting percentage. Yet in the next two sets combined, SU had just 18 kills and committed 17 attacking errors. Even during warm-ups, the gap in consistency between Pitt and Syracuse was evident, Williams said. “We want to figure out how we can get that first set through the entirety of our season, get two sets out of it, three sets, four sets,” Williams said. “They (Pitt) could probably do that for 10 sets straight.”In the second set, the strong energy and team defense SU had displayed in the first largely evaporated outside of Bowllan, who continued to lay out for every ball in her vicinity. Pitt seemed to take note of Bowllan’s play, and began directing its attacks away from the senior. Instead, the Panthers targeted Yuliia Yastrub and SU’s inexperienced middles, freshmen Abby Casiano and Markova. Markova, typically an outside hitter, was playing in the middle for only the second time in her SU career. On one play early on, Yastrub was caught flat-footed, and a Pitt kill ricocheted off her out-of-bounds. SU head coach Leonid Yelin promptly took her out on the next play, giving her a quick pep-talk before Yastrub joined her teammates on the bench. Yelin said he noticed Yastrub was being uncharacteristically hesitant, and wanted to bolster her confidence. “I know how she’s performing when she doesn’t have anything in the back of her mind, when she’s playing and not worrying about making mistakes,” Yelin said. “When she’s just going and focusing on how to win, don’t worry about nothing for a second because it will be a mistake.” After sitting out the remainder of the set, Yastrub returned for the third, but to little avail. Polina Shemanova, who paced the Orange with 15 kills and three aces, was emblematic of SU’s inconsistency after a strong first set. In that first set, Shemanova had six kills, with her thunderous cross-court kills stinging the hands of Pitt defenders, who were unable to parry Shemanova’s attacks back into play. By the third set, the Panthers adjusted, getting their front row into positions that thwarted Shemanova and SU’s attacks. At one point in the third set, Saada had three straight attacking errors, with Pitt blockers getting their hands up quickly, forcing Saada to fire her attacks way out of bounds down SU’s left side. Later in the set, Pitt’s front row showed up again, this time with a spike that came down so fast at Karakasi she could only react by parrying the ball off Markova’s face, allowing Pitt to take the point and eventually, the set 25-17. While the first set proved SU could hang with one of the best teams in the country, the next two revealed the gap the Orange need to close in order to secure a second consecutive NCAA tournament berth.“There’s a reason why they (Pitt) are No. 3 now, they can consistently play on this level, and I hope we are in the process to start moving in this direction,” Yelin said. “We have to just keep going and be patient so it’s not just one (good) set, but two and hopefully three.” Commentslast_img