Syracuse volleyball wins unconventional 5-set match against Wake Forest

Sabrina Koenig | Staff Photographer

Syracuse battled through an up and down game to beat Wake Forest.

Kendra Lukacs served the ball to Wake Forest with the Orange up 25-24 in the fourth set of the game. A bad set by WFU’s Bailey Shurbet caused multiple members of the team to trip over each other in an attempt to keep the ball from hitting the floor.

Instead, they forced it into the ground and pushed the game into a fifth set — just the fourth time Syracuse made it into the fifth set this season.

The bizarre ending to the fourth was one of many unusual aspects in the game against Wake Forest on Friday in the Women’s Building. The Orange (6-15, 5-6 Atlantic Coast) finished with a season-high 20 total blocks and total points (80) and its third highest kill total of the season (56). But it also had the second-highest number of errors (26) in the 3-2 win over Wake Forest (9-13, 5-6).

Two of the five sets exceeded the 25 points needed to win, the first set ended 28-26 and the fourth set went to 26-24. Sets two and three ended 25-16 and 25-23 in WFU’s favor while the fifth was won by Syracuse, 15-8.

“Looking at individual hitting percentage, it’s hard to believe,” Syracuse head coach Leonid Yelin said. “We overcame, but I think that’s why we played five games.”

Anastasiya Gorelina and Kendra Lukacs had 39 and 43 attack attempts, respectively. From that, Gorelina had 11 kills, eight errors and a hitting percentage of .077 while Lukacs had nine kills, nine errors and a hitting percentage of .000. Christina Oyawale ended with a -.167 hitting percentage.

Six of the 11 players who saw the court put up four or more kills. Santita Ebangwese and Gorelina had double-digit kills. Four of Ebangwese’s 16 kills were made up by SU’s last five points of the game.

“My hitting was feeding into my blocking,” Ebangwese said. “I was getting hyped so then I was getting faster to closing the block and the rest is history.”

One kill near the beginning of the second set ended one of the longest rallies Syracuse has seen all season. After over a minute of the ball going back and forth over the net, Leah Levert slammed the ball to the back of Wake Forest’s side of the court, putting Syracuse up 8-7.

Only three sets later did Syracuse see the other longest rally of its season. Three times in a row in the middle of the rally, the Demon Deacons hit the ball toward Belle Sand. Each time, she knelt in the same position, saving the ball from hitting the ground with a dig.

“I can contribute a lot of my digs like being in the right position based on our block,” Sand said.

Near the end of the fifth set, the Orange was up 9-6. Ebangwese and Trotter blocked Wake Forest from scoring. As the ball went toward the ground, one of WFU’s players tried to kick the ball over the net. It did not work in her favor. Instead, Syracuse was given the point and Wake Forest called a timeout.

Seven times someone hit or served the ball into the net. Four of those times were in the fourth set, including when WFU’s Kylie Long skimmed the top of the net with the ball. The contact caused the ball bounce back onto Wake Forest’s side, making it 24-23 SU.

At the end of the fifth set, SU was leading 14-8. Ebangwese slammed the ball into the back of Wake Forest’s side of the court, scoring the winning point. Screaming, the SU gathered in a group hug. “Let’s go Cuse” and “Go Santita” could be heard from the stands.


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