‘Cuse fights hard in 3-1 loss against Army at home

'Cuse fights hard in 3-1 loss against Army at home

Despite a valiant effort from Polina Shemanova, the Black Knights proved to be too much for the Orange.
Published: September 9, 2022
Head Coach Volleyball
Head Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam helps warm up Syracuse players during the UCF Challenge on Sept. 1 weekend.

Syracuse fell to the Army Black Knights in its home opener on Thursday night. Despite some good moments, the Army defense was able to shut down the power game that the Orange tried to establish. The tournament play will continue this weekend with matches against Hofstra and Yale.

First Set

Before the match began, Orange captain Polina Shemanova was recognized for recording her 1,500 kill in her last match. She is only the fifth player in program history to do so. Shemanova got the scoring started for Syracuse along with contributions from outside hitter Viktoriia Lohmanchuk. Middle blocker Bre Walp and right side hitter Naomi Franco added an early combo block, and Franco added another kill.

Army got on track after a great defensive effort from libero Sayer Butters. Black Knights players Kai Nickerson and Mackenzie Lynch added a combo block and Paige Fixmer joined the scoring.

Blocking was a bright spot for Syracuse which was praised by first year Head Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam.

“I thought our blocking at times looked really, really good,” Ganesharatnam said. “That’s something we worked on this week, and I’m really pleased with the outcome so far.”

Case in point, Shemanova and Walp had another big block in the set. After taking a timeout, Army got on a run scoring six out of the next eight points which eventually led to a 20-16 lead for Army, and a Syracuse timeout. Army was able to close out the first set by a score of 25-22.

Second Set

Army got off to a 6-1 start which became 5-2 after a successful Syracuse challenge. Franco helped narrow the gap with some important kills as Syracuse began bringing the heat. Army opposite Allanah Cutter didn’t light up the scoresheet in the set, but she had critical kills to keep the momentum with Army. Ganesharatnam believes the Army’s defense and self-inflicted wounds really made a difference.

“West Point is a very defensive minded team. They’re a very scrappy team and feisty, and we know it’s going to be long rallies, and we needed to really stay in it and be organized and disciplined,”  Ganesharatnam said. “I thought there were times we did that. I think we need to do a better job being more consistent with that. I think the first two sets we just had too many errors. We need to minimize those errors.”

The second set went to Army 25-19 in part to those errors.

Third Set

The Orange came out of the break charged up and got off to a 6-1 lead. A balanced attack which featured three straight service aces from Shemanova, and kills from Franco, Walp, and Lohmanchuck helped shut Army down in the set.

A common theme in the game, and especially in the third set was Syracuse looking to slam the ball. The off-speed ball did not make many appearances for either squad. Syracuse leaned on the strength of their hitters and allowed other players off the bench to get some reps. Right side hitter Raina Hughes made the most of her time and had final say in the third to give the Orange the win 25-14.

Fourth Set

The Orange’s momentum could not be sustained. Franco tried to pick up where she left off, but after an ace from Army outside hitter Julia Johnson, the Black Knights were back in business. Despite more offensive efforts from Shemanova and Hughes and a late push by the Syracuse front, Army was able to reestablish the style of play that won them the first two sets.

Army once again took the set 25-22 with the winner off the hand of Isabella Sullivan.

Reflecting on the loss at home, Shemanova said the team needs to improve upon its confidence.

“We keep telling every single player you can do it,” Shemanova said. “As Coach Bak said, we have enough talent on the team. Sometimes just people don’t believe in them (themselves) fully, so we have to build this positive atmosphere and support each other.”

Tournament play will continue this weekend in Syracuse with the Orange facing Hofstra Friday at 11 a.m.