Syracuse falters around the net in season-ending loss to No. 8 Penn State in NCAA tournament round of 32

first_img Comments Published on December 1, 2018 at 10:50 pm Contact Adam: adhillma@syr.edu | @_adamhillman STATE COLLEGE, Pa — Freshman Polina Shemanova isn’t used to being blocked. The ACC freshman of the year leads the Orange in kills on the season and frightened almost every middle blocker she met. Until Saturday.In the second set, with the Orange leading 16-11, Shemanova leaped into the air near the Syracuse bench, just as she had done so many times this season. She swung her arm across her head, sending the ball across the court. As it passed over the net, Penn State junior Tori Gorrell lifted her arms straight into the air and sent the ball back.Shemanova was stunned. The freshman stood flat-footed as the ball dropped in front of her face and bounced against the wood floor.“It was like perfect timing when they were over the net so it was pretty hard to hit across,” Shemanova said.Throughout the night, Shemanova and the Syracuse front line struggled to contain the Penn State middle blockers and outside hitters. The Nittany Lions totaled nine blocks and held the Orange to .138 hit percentage. Shemanova and senior Santita Ebangwese spiked only 16 kills together, well below their combined average of 6.56 per set.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn the second round of the NCAA tournament, Syracuse (19-9, 14-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) faltered around the net against Penn State (25-7, 14-6 Big Ten) in a straight set loss, 25-13, 25-20, 25-16.When defending the Penn State attack, the Orange folded. Ranked No. 2 in blocks per set entering the match, the Orange only rejected six Nittany Lion spikes. Penn State continuously found opportunities to attack first time starting libero, sophomore Yuliia Yastrub.“I don’t think you stop somebody who leads their team in kills and is the freshman of the year in her conference … We knew she was going to get her kills,” Penn State head coach Russ Rose said. “We were pleased that the other girl who we thought hit some balls that were indefensible wasn’t getting as many opportunities to do that.”Down 18-10 early on in the first set, Ebangwese had yet to make an impact on the match, recording only a single kill and a block.After Shemanova fired a float serve to Penn State libero, junior Kendall White, Ebangwese finally had an opportunity to ignite her team — her usual role. When Gorrell lept in the air, Ebangwese did the same. As Ebangwese stuck her arms straight into the air, the ball deflected off the senior’s head and plunged to the floor.As Ebangwese landed, she glanced around at her teammates, searching for the ball. When she noticed it next to the scorer’s table, she sighed and slowly stood up. The usually energetic, loud and jubilant Ebangwese was dead silent and murmured her words.“Their serve was aggressive,” Ebangwese said. “It got us out of our system and then you don’t know where the ball is gonna go. That’s kind of our game plan and we kind of got out of it this game.”Into the second set, Ebangwese began to make her mark. When Syracuse held an 11-9 lead, she and junior Kendra Lukacs combined to reject consecutive strikes from PSU freshman Jonni Parker. After the second, the raucous Penn State student section stopped screaming. Syracuse finally seized some momentum.Yet, just as it seemed as though SU had found a solution, the Nittany Lions responded.Penn State began to fire almost every attack at Yastrub, trying to rattle the libero. With the score tied at 17, Parker struck the ball cross-court towards the first time starting libero. By the time Yatrub lifted her arm, the ball had zipped past her head. Syracuse assistant coach Derryk Williams shook his head after a 16-4 set-winning Penn State run, crushing any chance of an upset.“We thought Yuliia would do better for us at this kind of game,” Yelin said. “She has experience playing on the big stage and today we thought she would be mentally much better and she was.”center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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