Syracuse volleyball season revs up with new coaching staff

Syracuse volleyball season revs up with new coaching staff

Season preview: Head Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam holds 11 years of coaching experience at Temple under his belt.
Published: September 8, 2022
New Volleyball Head Coach
Head Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam speaks with players.

As Syracuse volleyball opens home play this week hosting a four-team tournament, the Orange continues to adjust to a new coaching staff.

With Head Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam taking the the helm in May, SU records sets at 3-3 after back-to-back tournaments in North Carolina and Florida.

Ganesharatnam, who compiled 173 wins while at Temple for 11 years, enlisted the help from his assistant coach at Temple Lesli Akeo as well as Assistant Coach Aven Lee from Portland.

Coming to Syracuse, he and his staff are bringing excitement, focusing on rebuilding the team and competing at the highest level. 

“We want to keep building until we get to the point where you guys can hopefully come to a Final Four and interview me,” Ganesharatnam said. 

Performance So Far

The Orange has a split record of .500 with a great first performance on August 26 in the Charlotte Invitational, beating Campbell 3-1, which was both Ganesharatnam’s first match and win as SU’s head coach.

Outside hitters Viktoriia Lokhmanchuk and Polina Shemanova and setters Riley Hoffman and Lauren Woodford recorded double-doubles. 

Syracuse followed up the next day with another win, beating Wofford 3-2. The Orange came into the match strong, winning the first two sets, but then fell to Wofford in the following two sets. Despite the back and forth, the Orange came back for the last set, winning 15-10.

Lokhmanchuk and Shemanova both had double-doubles for the second consecutive match. Woodford helped tremendously on offense with 28 total assists. 

To finish off the tournament, the Orange faced Charlotte in just three sets in, and Syracuse lost all of them. Syracuse kept the matchup competitive but just fell short. Charlotte outscored the Orange in kills (47-37), blocks (6-5), assists (46-35), and digs (48-47). 

Looking back on Syracuse’s first tournament run, Ganesharatnam wants to improve the Orange’s consistency. 

“When we played Charlotte, we had great opportunities to win sets and possibly even change the outcome of the match…but we weren’t consistent enough,” Ganesharatnam said.

Lesli Akeo

Assistant Coach Lesli Akeo coaching at the UCF Challenge the first weekend of September 2022.

Assistant Coach Aven Lee

SU Assistant Coach Aven Lee holds a volleyball at the UCF Challenge the first weekend of September 2022.

Following the Charlotte Invitational, the Orange traveled down south for the UCF Challenge starting on Sept. 1. Syracuse lost its first two matches to Kansas State (1-3) and UCF (0-3). 

All four of the sets were close with Kansas State winning the first by the skim of its teeth 25-23, the second set 25-18 and the fourth set 25-21. Even the third set where Syracuse took the “W,” it was close, winning by just three points.

In the UCF matchup, Syracuse stayed in the game for the first two sets, but couldn’t keep up in the last set, losing 11-25. 

The Orange brought its consistency in its final match of the tournament against North Florida, winning all three sets. Syracuse brought the heat with 61 total points scored, 46 kills, 43 assists and 35 digs. 

Lokhmanchuk led the team in kills with 14 and Woodford led in assists with 19.

Season Opener

Despite the rough start in the UCF Challenge, the Orange left Florida with a win as a good propeller for the upcoming home-opener against Army (2-5) Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Women’s Building. 

This will be the first matchup between the two teams since 2008 in which Army took home the win in Syracuse.

Shemanova and Lokhmanchuk will be forces to be reckoned with as they are both experienced and playing well so far in the season. 

Although Syracuse’s team is compiled with transfers like libero Alyssa Bert and middle blocker Didar Ozcan, players have the opportunity to take leadership roles.

“The team is put together,” Ganesharatnam said. “We’re going to have to have multiple people step up and do their part in order for us to be successful.”