Syracuse’s frontline improves with personnel changes in 3-2 loss to Duke

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ With the score tied at 13 in the fourth set against Duke, Marina Markova flew above the net, deftly guiding a ball into the heart of the Blue Devils’ defense. It looked like a sure kill for the freshman from St. Petersburg, Russia.But just before the ball struck the ground, two diving Duke players dug the ball out, sending it back over the net. Eventually, the ball found its way to Elena Karakasi who set a pass at the perfect height for the 6-foot-4 Markova. This time, she left Duke no chance, burying a shot into the court, inches away from where she had placed her initial attack. Markova and Karakasi displayed their attacking chemistry throughout the match, with Karakasi teeing up Markova for all 13 of her kills. But it was outside hitter Markova’s — who played middle blocker on Sunday — defensive effort that impressed the SU coaching staff the most. “I mean, unbelievable,” assistant coach Derryk Williams said of Markova’s performance. “She played in a brand new position that she’s never played, in terms of a match. She came in and she was [playing] at an elite level. They couldn’t stop her.” Against Wake Forest on Friday, Syracuse’s middle blockers struggled to match up with the Demon Deacons frontline, leading to Dana Gardner and Izzy Plummer being benched, with outside hitter Yuliia Yastrub shifting to the center. Gardner and Plummer didn’t play at all against Duke on Sunday, but it was the outside hitter Markova, along with freshman middle blocker Abby Casiano and Karakasi, who were tasked with repelling Duke’s attacks in SU’s (4-7, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) loss to the Blue Devils (8-9, 1-3 ACC).AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMarkova, Casiano and Karakasi combined for 20 blocks, with Markova leading the way with 11. Despite having barely practiced at middle blocker this season, SU head coach Leonid Yelin said they needed someone with her hitting ability in the middle for this match. “What even more surprised me was how good she did in the blocking,” Yelin said. “Like if I didn’t know [Markova] I would never feel this [was] her first time [in the middle].”With the scored tied at 11 in the first set, Yelin shifted Markova from her usual position of outside hitter to middle blocker. Even though Markova added height and versatility in the middle, SU dropped the first two sets.Midway through the third set, Markova and sophomore Polina Shemanova combined on the left side for a block that forced a Duke attack error. The block capped a 4-0 SU run and caused Shemanova and Markova to embrace and jump up and down. Syracuse took the third and fourth sets.But Markova’s position change wasn’t completely seamless. With Syracuse leading 3-2 in the fifth set, Markova displayed her inexperience at the position, committing a reaching violation as she attempted to block a Duke attack. Though on the next point, Markova, combining again with Karakasi, quickly leaked out from her spot in the middle, running to the right behind Karakasi while she set the ball before finishing the play with an emphatic slam.Markova wasn’t the only new addition to the middle on Sunday. Casiano, who didn’t play on Friday against Wake Forest due to a hand injury, saw her first action since featuring in the victory over Harvard on Sept. 21st. Despite playing with her hand heavily taped, she had her best game donning an orange uniform, Williams said. “This was the first time that she’s done things we needed her to do,” Williams said. “She’s struggled all year with one-on-one blocks. She had maybe two solos, but more importantly she started taking away easy swings from the hitters, and then we were able to dig balls that we weren’t digging before.” Tasked with stopping Duke’s powerful outside hitters in Ade Owokoniran and Payton Schwantz, Casiano struggled at first. Early in the first set, Owokoniran whizzed a ball past Casiano, who failed to get her hands up in time, prompting Yelin to get off the bench and yell at Casiano. Later in the set, Casiano responded, rising quickly after a Blue Devil attack to get her hands in position above the net, floating the ball beyond the Duke middle blockers for a kill.  In the end, Syracuse lost the fifth set 17-15. Despite the second consecutive loss to an ACC rival, the Orange’s improvement up front gives them hope heading into another ACC home showdown against No. 4 Pittsburgh next Friday, players and coaches said after the loss.  “I think we played much better than Friday,” Karakasi said. “It was very important that we came back after being down two zero. Next time we [will] push more towards the end.” Comments Published on October 6, 2019 at 7:46 pm Contact Alex: [email protected] | @alexhamer8last_img

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