SU volleyball sweeps opening day of 2021 season

SU volleyball wins doubleheader

Orange top Buffalo and UConn in opening matches.
Published: August 27, 2021
Syracuse's Polina Shemanova (left) reacts with Abby Casiano (right) after a kill against University of Connecticut at the Women's Building on August 27, 2021
Syracuse's Polina Shemanova (left) reacts with Abby Casiano (right) after a kill against University of Connecticut at the Women's Building on Friday night.

The SU Women’s Building glowed with excitement on Friday, as Syracuse volleyball opened its 2021 season with wins over Buffalo and Connecticut.

Syracuse began its first match against the University at Buffalo with an ace serve from junior middle blocker Marina Markova. As each team traded the lead, head coach Leonid Yelin looked to senior outside hitter Polina Shemanova for powerful spikes and finesse offense when necessary.

“Polina, I never took her off the floor,” Yelin said. “It’s just what she’s doing. The most important player is going to be who’s doing excellent in their role.”

SU balanced its offense between Shemanova on the left and sophomore right side hitter Naomi Franco. The two-headed outside-hitting monster accounted for 23 kills and 12 kills respectively.

“Yuliia (Yastrub) did a great job in the libero position telling us where to hit, telling us that it’s ok to be aggressive and that she’ll cover us,” Franco said. “She held true to that. She covered a lot of balls.”

Syracuse never looked out of control, but Buffalo capitalized on SU mistakes and forced a fifth set after winning two of their own.

“I knew they were going to push us,” Yelin said. “We had to respond well and be ready to play.”

In the match deciding fifth set, Markova propelled the Orange to a season opening win with four kills and an ace in the final frame.

“The game against Buffalo was a start for us, and it was a good start,” Shemanova said.

Syracuse's Naomi Franco (right) reacts after picking up Abby Casiano (left) during a volleyball match against University of Connecticut at the Women's Building on August 27, 2021.
Syracuse's Naomi Franco (right) reacts after picking up Abby Casiano (left) during a volleyball match against University of Connecticut.

Opening the second match against Connecticut, Yelin peppered the Huskies with Shemanova’s vicious spikes. Through SU’s first five points, Shemanova had three kills.

Connecticut’s Jasmine Davis sparked the Huskies’ offense with 11 kills and multiple key blocks. But junior outside hitter Viktoriia Lokhmanchuk and junior middle blocker Abby Casiano stuffed the inside for the Orange, which led to a balanced approach, Franco said.

“It was a mixture of our defense and our setters,” Franco said. “Defensively, we were getting good balls up, getting good touches off the block and even just blocks in general.”

All six of Syracuse’s starters finished with three or more kills. Shemanova led the way with 14.

“As coach loves saying, try to be unique and be creative when you create your shots,” Shemanova said. “So [I was] just being creative and being confident.”

The Orange beat the Huskies in three straight sets and improved to 2-0 on the year. Next, they’ll face the Albany Great Danes on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“That sets the tone for our season,” Franco said. “Getting that first win was a very big moment for us.”

Syracuse's Naomi Franco and Abby Casiano attempt a block against University of Connecticut's Caylee Parker during the first set on August 27, 2021.
Syracuse's Naomi Franco and Abby Casiano attempt a block against University of Connecticut's Caylee Parker during the first set.
Avatar for Dean Zulkofske

is the Sports Lead Producer for The NewsHouse and a magazine, news and digital journalism graduate student from Stony Brook, N.Y.

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Avatar for Dean Zulkofske

is a graduate student in the multimedia, photography and design program and a contributing photographer for The NewsHouse.