Orange volleyball falls short of upsetting No. 3 Pittsburgh

SU volleyball falls short to No. 3 Pitt in five sets

Marina Markova and Polina Shemanova combined for 39 kills in Friday night's loss.
Published: November 13, 2021
Syracuse's Viktoriia Lokhmanchuk (right) wags her finger after a University of Connecticut ball lands out of bounds in the third set of the volleyball match at the Women's Building on August 27, 2021.
Viktoriia Lokhmanchuk (23) and Marina Markova (3), pictured here against UCONN on Aug. 27, have been integral parts to Syracuse's success this fall.

Coming into Friday night’s game, not many people expected the Orange (16-10, 5-9 ACC) to keep pace with the No. 3 team in the nation. After all, Pitt (23-2, 12-2 ACC) took down SU in three straight sets just one week ago.

And although it started as a repeat performance, the Orange rallied from down 2-0 before ultimately falling in the final set.

Naomi Franco had the first point for the Orange, a kill to tie the score at one in the first set. After that, Cuse wouldn’t even tie the game again until the third set.

During that time, Leketor Member-Meneh stole the show for the Panthers. The Pitt senior had a team-best 23 kills on the night. 10 of those, coupled with an ace, powered Pittsburgh through the first two sets.

The one thing that didn’t change entering the third was the fans in the SU Women’s Building. Over 600 were in attendance for the matchup, by far the most in a match this season. With chants of “Whose House? Our House!” echoing in the gym, you might’ve thought you were at the Dome for a game. Head Coach Leonid Yelin credited them with keeping his team in the game.

“I can tell you, (we have) very few, you know, crowds like today,” Yelin said. “It was nice to have this environment. I think our players deserve to have it. We can only wish to have this every game we play.”

The Orange suddenly caught fire in the third set. With the round tied at five, Polina Shemanova came up with a clutch block to give SU its first lead of the night. From there, it was full speed ahead for Syracuse’s offense.

Shemanova had five more kills in the set, and 19 total, thanks in part to Elena Karakasi. The Syracuse Senior has been setting up scoring opportunities for her team all season long, averaging just under 10 assists per set. That didn’t change tonight. Karasaki finished with a whopping 45 assists on the evening, something Shemanova was appreciative of after the match.

“Elena is the one who runs the whole game. She’s the conductor,” Shemanova said. “We have to do everything we can to make her more confident.”

The fourth set was a little closer than the third, but the Orange managed to pull ahead once again. Marina Markova joined the action with 6 kills, she ended up leading the team with 24.5 points.

But the wheels finally came off in the fifth set. With the Orange down 8-6, Abby Casiano came up to serve. Her attempt went straight into the net, which seemed to kill whatever momentum SU had left. They went on to lose the final set 15-9.

Still, Yelin considered this game to be a success, even more so than some past victories.

“I cannot recall (ever saying) to my players, ‘Believe it or not, I’m disappointed,’” Yelin said. “Of course you want to win, you know, as coaches do. But I would take this loss over many, many wins we’ve had because, I’m sorry to say, they were ugly wins.”

The team is going to be getting better. We just have to learn how to fight (like) this every single time.”

The Orange will host Florida State this Sunday at noon. Like Friday night’s matchup, FSU beat Syracuse in five sets in their first meeting.