Orangewomen’s domination of St. Francis allows Casey a chance to swing and serve outside
Syracuse volleyball captain Christen Casey cartwheels herself out onto the court for every match.
Against Niagra on Wednesday night, the whole SU team might have well been doing cartwheels all night as the Orangewomen rolled over the Purple Eagles in three straight games, 30-17, 30-18 and 30-20.
The win improved Syracuse’s record to 12-6 and extended its winning streak to five games.
‘We were just looking to stay focused and play our game tonight,’ assistant coach Alexis Dankulic said. ‘The girls did a good job of that.’
Syracuse got plenty of help from Niagra. The Purple Eagles had four players with more errors than they had kills. As a team, Niagra only had 27 kills and 25 errors, good for a .017 hitting percentage.
‘We do these games because the other option would be a tough practice,’ Dankulic said. ‘I think they would rather play than a have a practice.’
Casey, a senior captain, said Syracuse was able to focus against Niagra despite the lopsided score because the team thinks of each match as just important as the next.
‘Games like this, it’s not about ‘Let’s just get the game over with,” Casey said. ‘It’s more about being aggressive. We’re able to take more risks in games like this.’
One of the risks head coach Jing Pu took was moving Casey out of her usual libero position for the third game of the match. Pu inserted Casey as outside hitter despite Casey’s 5-foot-7 stature – the most diminutive on the team.
‘We wanted to give Christen a chance to swing outside,’ Dankulic said. ‘Christen swings a lot in practice and so we just wanted to let her hit.’
Casey managed two kills on her self-proclaimed 25-inch vertical, and earned cheers from the bench and crowd.
‘It was funny because everyone sees me as the libero,’ Casey said. ‘Everybody thinks I’m not capable of serving or not capable of hitting because libero really takes me out 70 percent of the game.’
Pu hesitated in moving Casey to the outside.
When Casey was a freshman, Pu moved her to the outside in a similar game against Niagra. On a tight play near the net, Casey came down on her ankle the wrong way and sprained it. She was out for the next couple Big East games.
Pu had been apprehensive about the moving his star player ever since, Casey said.
‘In practice I always hit, so Jing knows I’m capable of it,’ Casey said. ‘But it’s not exactly the brightest move to make in an important match. So considering we played a team at this level, we could play around a little bit more with the lineup.’
Syracuse moved other players around as well, which enabled outside hitters Kristen Conway and Morgan Jones, as well as middle blocker Kelly Duan, to rest.
Outside hitter Jessica Logan saw time hitting on the right side just in case the Orangewomen ever need her there down the line, Dankulic said.
‘I think it was more of an opportunity to try some people at other positions, more so than giving people a chance to rest,’ Dankulic said.
Syracuse is already looking forward to this weekend’s games against Central Connecticut and Big East teams Connecticut and St. John’s. Pu talked to the team about Connecticut’s strong middle middle hitters and defending the slide.
‘From our last weekend’s competition, Connecticut is at least a whole other level above what we saw,’ Casey said. ‘Hitting, passing, serving, blocking is all beyond what we’ve seen.’
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