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Trailing 23-19 in the fourth set, Polina Shemanova stepped up to serve for Syracuse. She made sure her mask, which SU players had worn in-game for the first time this season, was sitting properly on her face as she served.
Off of Shemanova’s serve, Notre Dame’s middle blocker Lindsey Miller sent a powerful strike to the back corner of Syracuse’s defense, a place of weakness for SU the entire game. Outside hitter Yuliia Yastrub lunged for the ball, getting her right arm to it, but she failed to make proper contact. The ball soared into the stands and the entire Syracuse team turned and watched, their hopes of remaining undefeated starting to slip away.
Three points later, the Orange lost the set and the match.
No. 5 Syracuse (2-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) suffered its first loss of the season in four sets to Notre Dame (2-0, 2-0). The loss came after SU upset Pitt twice last weekend and earned its highest ever ranking by the AVCA. SU’s individual play stood out, with Shemanova accounting for 14 kills on 41 attempts, 22 digs and two blocks. Yastrub also had eight kills, seven digs and four blocks. But the Orange struggled to stop the Irish defensively, as they allowed 61 kills across the four sets. Notre Dame’s Charley Niego had 19 kills and Caroline Meuth was second with 15, both more than any players on Syracuse.
Most kills in the games against Pitt were aimed at freshman libero Lauren Hogan, but the Irish’s kills starting early in the first set were struck toward the other corner of the court, which was occupied mostly by SU’s outside hitters, including Yastrub and Ella Saada. On the last two points of the first set, Saada missed crucial digs as Syracuse lost, 25-21.
The second set featured the same rough start from Syracuse, with the first point being a repetition of the last set: a deep spike from the Irish going untouched by the Orange. SU continued to trail, and at 7-2, head coach Leonid Yelin called a timeout. Still, SU surrendered the set, 25-16.
While the total attempts for both teams were approximately the same, with Syracuse having 158 and Notre Dame having 161, the Orange were unable to make efficient plays offensively. SU had 24 attack errors compared to the Irish’s 17. Syracuse’s best play came in the third set, when it was able to come up with answers offensively, especially from Yastrub. She had four kills and an ace in the third set. Yastrub varied the placement of her spikes, confusing the Notre Dame defense by going down-the-line on one attempt but cross-court on the next.
Even though Syracuse won the third set 25-20, the offensive momentum didn’t carry over into the fourth. The players that Syracuse had looked to early on in the game, such as Shemanova and Yastrub, were unable to take over as the Orange trailed for most of the game.
Syracuse trailed 15-19, and Hogan recovered a difficult dig, which set up Shemanova for a strike. However, her kill attempt was too strong and sailed out of bounds.
Shemanova threw her head back in disappointment, and she didn’t fix her mask this time.
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