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Syracuse volleyball announced Bakeer Ganesharatnam as its new head coach, becoming the seventh head coach in program history. Ganesharatnam joins the Orange after 11 seasons at Temple, where he guided the Owls to four consecutive 20-plus win seasons from 2014-17. His contract with Temple was not renewed after the Owls (7-24, 3-17 American Athletic) finished 10th in the conference.
The Sri Lanka native replaces former SU head coach Leonid Yelin, who stepped down in February. Yelin announced his retirement, but later returned to the head coaching position at Barry College.
In the 2020-21 season, Ganesharatnam was named the AAC’s co-Coach of the Year and the American Volleyball Coaches Association North Region Coach of the Year after guiding the Owls to the conference championship game. He coached five AVCA All-Region selections, an AAC Setter of the Year and an AAC Libero of the Year.
Prior to Temple, Ganesharatnam served two assistant coaching stints at West Virginia and Cedar Valley College (Texas). As a player, he won two conference championships at Queens College in New York. After moving to Germany from Sri Lanka, he won the regional championship and several state championships with VFL Sindelfingen from 1990-2000.
“Bakeer is highly respected in the volleyball arena by elite coaches and administrators and is an excellent recruiter who builds positive program culture,” SU Director of Athletics John Wildhack said in the press release. “His 11 years as a head coach and his sincere, calm, glass half-full demeanor are the right combination for our program.”
Ganesharatnam joins a program that made significant roster changes over the past few months. Most notably, AVCA All-American honorable mention Marina Markova — SU’s best player last season — transferred to Florida. Markova had a team-high 492 kills, which was second in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Among other transfers include middle blockers Izzy Plummer and Abby Casiano, who transferred to Villanova and Miami, respectively. Setter Elena Karakasi and defensive specialist Lauren Hogan both transferred to Texas A&M. Setter Peyton O’Brien transferred to Belmont. Outside hitter Diana Akopova, a freshman in 2021, is not listed on the roster.
SU retains graduate student Polina Shemanova, who finished with 421 kills last season. In 2018, she was the ACC Freshman of the Year and an AVCA All-American honorable mention. The Orange also retain Naomi Franco and Viktoriia Lokhmanchuk, both who had meaningful playing time in 2021.
SU started 14-2 in 2021 before crumbling in conference play, finishing 17-13. It failed to receive an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, where the program has been just once before, in 2018.
“I am excited about this opportunity and the enormous potential this program holds,” Ganesharatnam said. “I know we can create something special — a program we can all be proud of.”
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