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In the first set against Duke, Syracuse outside hitter Marina Markova rose from behind the attack line and notched her fifth kill of the game. Everything was going in the right direction for the Orange as they jumped out to a 14-5 lead, similar to their first matchup against Duke that SU won in straight sets.
But Sunday was different. Instead, the Blue Devils responded with a 9-0 run to level the score at 14 before ultimately taking the first set 25-20 after several Syracuse attacking errors.
Despite sweeping the Blue Devils on the road in three sets on Sept. 26, Syracuse (16-13, 5-12 Atlantic Coast) dropped a must-win match against Duke (16-12, 7-10 ACC) in four sets. Although the Orange won the second set, a struggling attack and a strong Blue Devils defense resulted in the defeat, hurting SU’s chances of receiving an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
Statistically, the Orange recorded a .133 hitting percentage because of their 25 attack errors over 150 total attempts. Duke recorded 22 total blocks, led by middle blocker Georgia Stavrinides, who notched 10. In the first matchup, Duke recorded three blocks total and conceded a .359 hitting percentage to the Orange, SU’s highest percentage against any conference opponent this season.
Despite Markova’s strong start, the Blue Devils were able to predict SU’s attack. The Orange usually set up their attack to the left side where either Markova or Polina Shemanova would spike it or strategically place a tip shot. But Duke stopped the duo and forced Markova and Shemanova to record 13 and seven attack errors, respectively.
In previous matches, SU has set up kill attempts to its middle blockers, or setter Elena Karakasi would sneak the ball over to catch defenses off guard. Karakasi didn’t play as much compared to other matches, which caused the attack to be set up on the outside more frequently.
In the middle of the second set, a 4-0 run propelled Syracuse to a 17-10 lead, which was too much for the Blue Devils to overcome. The first half of the first set and the second set would be the few bright moments for SU, as the third and fourth sets were highlighted by offensive struggles.
After dropping the third set, SU jumped out to a 4-2 lead to start the fourth set. But then Duke’s Lizzie Fleming and Ade Owokoniran rejected a Markova spike, sending it all the way behind the Orange’s back line and landing it for a point. The next play, SU switched its attack to the right side for a Naomi Franco kill attempt, but the Blue Devils blocked it straight down. The next two plays were blocked by Stavrinides, part of a 5-0 Duke scoring run with four points scored off blocks on Syracuse attacks.
“It’s just mental,” head coach Leonid Yelin said. “Everything that did not work out for the most part, I would say it’s 95% because of mental.”
To conclude the run, Owokoniran notched a crosscourt kill, forcing Yelin to call a timeout as his team trailed 7-4. After the timeout, Duke recorded a service error, one of its 14 total faulty serves throughout the match.
Toward the end of the fourth set, SU trailed by four points, 18-14. But three points later, Shemanova was blocked by the Blue Devil defense and then again by Stavrinides to put Duke up 22-15. SU would stick around for a few more points, but a Fleming crosscourt kill sealed the victory for Duke.
“It’s not like we lost and we got beat by a better team,” Yelin said. “We lost and we lost to ourselves. When you’re not so mentally prepared, then it’s one person going down and it’s starting to bring down everyone.”
As much as SU was blocked, its attack would send kill attempts out of bounds, giving free points to Duke and lowering its hitting percentage. SU recorded its fourth-worst hitting percentage this season Sunday.
Syracuse concludes its regular season on Wednesday at North Carolina State (15-12, 9-7 ACC), a team who SU lost in four sets on Oct. 15. Similarly, this is a must-win opportunity for the Orange, who are seeking an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The last time SU made the tournament was 2018, its only appearance in program history. The 64-team field will be announced on Nov. 28.
The post Syracuse records 25 attack errors in 4-set loss to Duke appeared first on The Daily Orange.