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The ball was falling down to Virginia Tech’s Cera Powell after a high set from Marisa Cerchio on the left side. Powell locked her eyes on the ball and jumped — looking to send a strong spike over to Syracuse’s side of the net.
But Powell mistimed her jump, and instead of hitting the ball, all she could do was grab the air. The ball fell down on her chest and onto the ground as she looked disappointed. What could’ve been a point in the third set for the Hokies happened to be an attack error and a point for Syracuse late in the third set, putting the Orange up 22-11.
Powell’s missed hit and attack error were common for Virginia Tech. Syracuse (14-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) was able to build on its win on Friday with a stronger overall performance and forced a sloppy game from Virginia Tech (9-7, 0-4 Atlantic Coast) in a dominant sweep.
After Friday’s win against Wake Forest, head coach Leonid Yelin said he felt the team’s front line and defensive performance were still not strong enough. Even though the team won in four sets and had more block assists than Wake Forest, there were frequent gaps between two frontline players going up for the block, forcing backline players like Lauren Hogan to deal with more difficult balls.
Middle blocker Abby Casiano said she felt there was too much disconnect between the front line on Friday, but Sunday, the Orange were able to improve their timing.
“What we found was one of us was jumping to the right and one of us was jumping to the left, which would cause that hole,” Casiano said. “We really worked on syncing that jump together and jumping the same way, which led to a lot of blocks.”
In the first set, Syracuse and Virginia Tech went back and forth with each point. After the first kill by Virginia Tech, Syracuse had an attack error to help give the Hokies a 4-1 lead. But that was just one of only six total attack errors on the day for the Orange.
Quickly, SU gained its footing and went on a 13-7 run, including a span when Casiano and Viktoriia Lokhmanchuk earned two blocks in a row on the left side, forcing a Virginia Tech timeout after Syracuse went up 14-8.
Syracuse kept the distance for the rest of the first set, winning 25-17, as the Hokies finished with a .047 hitting percentage in the set. Throughout the set, multiple players got involved in attacks and were able to outsmart Virginia Tech by utilizing light taps instead of hard spikes. To get the 23rd point, Izzy Plummer saw Virginia Tech players back up anticipating a spike, so she snuck the ball in front of them with a tap to get the point.
Virginia Tech came out stronger in the second set and was able to get past the Syracuse middle blockers with powerful hits to earn two quick points. SU trailed 6-2 early, but the Hokies couldn’t hold the lead. Marina Markova and Lokhmanchuk stepped up their game and notched two kills each to tie the game at 8-8.
Later in the set, Mara Perry set the ball out of bounds for a Syracuse point. Naomi Franco then earned two consecutive points for the Orange with a kill and then a block alongside Casiano. At that point, Syracuse led 16-14, and Virginia Tech called a timeout before SU could continue its run.
But the timeout did little to help the Hokies as Syracuse ended the set on a 9-3 run to put the set away. Markova ended the set with two untouched aces in a row. In total, the team finished the game with seven service aces compared to only one from Virginia Tech.
“Our serving was really strong today,” Casiano said. “That always gets a team out of system … when they’re scrambling then you can assume who they’re going to set, which helps us to set up a really good block.”
In the third and final set, Syracuse cruised to a 25-13 win. Throughout the set, the Orange had a .344 hitting percentage in the third set, and the Hokies finished with a poor .051 percentage.
The first play was a long rally, but it ended with a combined block from Casiano and Franco. Shemanova then added two service aces to put Syracuse up 4-0. To get the sixth point, Plummer and Markova met VT’s Amanda Lowe at the top of the net and threw the ball down back to the Hokies’ side, which was followed by two SU kills, stretching the third set to a 9-1 Syracuse lead.
After the timeout, Virginia Tech totaled eight more errors throughout the rest of the set due to the pressure of the Syracuse blockers and its accurate serves. The Orange also managed six blocks during the set, while VT couldn’t notch a single one.
“We were more disciplined in this game,” Yelin said. “Our block was better today.”
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