VB : Orange can’t capitalize after jumping out to early leads
Jing Pu leaped out of his seat on the sidelines during the Syracuse volleyball team’s match against Louisville Sunday. A rare display of emotion from the Orange’s normally stoic head coach.
Unfortunately, Pu’s outburst wasn’t to celebrate a big point. Rather, it was a culmination of anger and frustration, unleashed by what Pu felt was a missed call by the referee. The display earned Pu a rare yellow card in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Cardinals.
Then again, it was a frustrating weekend for the Orange, which saw its five-game winning streak snapped Friday in a 3-2 defeat to Cincinnati, before falling again to Louisville Sunday.
Both games, Syracuse had chances to grab control of the match. And both times, the Orange failed to capitalize on its opportunities.
‘It was definitely a tough weekend for us,’ junior Kacie MacTavish said after Sunday’s loss. ‘These are two really good teams, and we showed that we have the potential to beat them. Against Cincinnati, we were up. Today, we killed (Louisville) in the second game, and we were up all of the first game.’
The Orange (14-11, 5-3 Big East) has developed a two-face persona during its up-and-down season. For the past month, it looked like Syracuse had overcome the mistakes that caused it to sputter early in the season. SU entered the weekend having won 10 of its last 11 games.
The stronger of the two Orange teams showed up at the beginning of the match against Cincinnati (20-5, 7-2 Big East), as Syracuse opened the first set with a 12-6 lead. SU was able to hold on to win the first set 25-21.
Syracuse lost the next two sets before storming back in the fourth. Thanks to freshman Noemie Lefebvre’s five kills and a couple of Cincinnati errors down the stretch, the Orange extended the match to a fifth set with a 26-24 win.
Lefebvre finished the match with a double-double, including 17 digs and a team-high 15 kills. Senior Marissa Kanemura racked up a career-high 32 digs.
‘I think I played really well, but I was just there when my team needed me to be,’ Lefebvre said. ‘I guess it was (one of my) best games of the season, but I like to think that we win as a team and lose as a team.’
Before the fifth and final set, it was obvious Syracuse had all the momentum. The Orange players were jumping and cheering during the break between sets.
SU opened up the fifth set on a 9-2 run, and found itself up 13-6 lead, needing two points to clinch a victory. Instead, Syracuse collapsed, dropping the final set, 16-14, and the match, 3-2.
‘Volleyball is all a momentum sport,’ SU assistant coach Carol LaMarche said. ‘We did exactly what we wanted to do when we came out in the fifth set; we were up 8-1. But they got a couple blocks, a couple good swings, and they were back into it.
‘Yes we lost, but I think that the team should not have lost any confidence. We played with them and almost took it from them.’
The missed opportunities continued Sunday during Syracuse’s loss to Louisville (10-10, 6-3 Big East). The Orange grabbed an early 12-3 lead in the first set on the Cardinals, before once again folding. SU dropped the first set, 25-22.
Syracuse rebounded and earned an easy, second set victory. But the Louisville defense proved too much for the Orange to handle. The Cardinals’ 16 total team blocks combined with their .222 attack percentage was a deciding factor in the contest.
That meant Syracuse was left to reflect on a weekend in which that could have easily been far less frustrating for Pu and his team.
‘We worked hard and did a lot of really good things this weekend,’ sophomore Hayley Todd said. ‘It was unfortunate that we lost these two games, but I feel like our confidence is still growing.’
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