SU feeling blue after Kentucky trip
Known for its bluegrass, Kentucky left the Orangewomen looking like the color of its herbage over the weekend.
The Syracuse volleyball team lost all three of its matches – against Kentucky, Virginia and Wright State – at the Kentucky Conference Challenge, dropping its record to 7-4.
Only three games remain before Big East conference play starts Sept. 26, an area that the Orangewomen hope to improve after finishing last season 5-8.
‘The teams, especially Virginia and Kentucky, were better than any teams we’ve seen before,’ assistant coach Alexis Dankulic said. ‘Wright State was a really good team, but that match should have been closer. We didn’t play very well as a team.’
‘It wasn’t that they were that much better than us,’ said sophomore setter Kathryn Dercher. ‘They were just better prepared.’
Dankulic said the team struggled on both sides of the ball, especially in transition from defense to offense. Against Virginia, the Orangewomen gave up 73 kills, while only managing 47 kills of their own. In the same match, Virginia outdug Syracuse, 103-85, as Whitney Ashcraft set the Cavalier record with 42 digs.
‘This weekend gave us a lot to focus on,’ Dercher said. ‘We have to improve on closing blocks and defending slide attacks.’
A slide attack involves the middle position swinging around to the outside perimeter for a kill, much like a three-man weave in basketball followed by a lay-up. Dercher said these things can easily be fixed before heading into the Big East part of the schedule.
Head coach Jing Pu and Dankulic did see improvements, though, in the defense. Pu made adjustments to the perimeter defense that allowed the team to be much more productive. Dankulic said senior captain Christen Casey anchored the defense consistently throughout the tournament. The coaches also said Syracuse improved its blocking.
‘In a couple of matches we outblocked teams,’ Dankulic said. ‘I think that we do need to pick up more balls defensively, but this weekend we made unforced errors that really hurt us.’
Inexperience is also to blame for this weekend’s setback. Syracuse has just four upperclassmen to go with seven sophomores and a single freshman.
‘Playing at this level,’ Dankulic said, ‘some of it was inexperience. Our freshman Erin (McQuillin) is getting better every day. We just have to sharpen some of our skills in the gym.’
Junior captain Morgan Jones had the best weekend for the Orangewomen. Jones tallied 45 kills and was named to the All-Tournament team.
The 5-foot-9 Dercher, who’s already No. 10 on Syracuse’s all-time assists list, led the Orangewomen with 56 assists in the tournament.
Despite the three straight losses, SU’s confidence remains high as it travels to New Hampshire this weekend for its final non-conference tournament.
‘This past weekend just gave us more focus,’ Dercher said. ‘If anything, I think it got us more excited because we now know what we have to do before Big East starts.’
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