On Wednesday night, the top storyline between Boston College volleyball and visiting Syracuse was the impressive efforts of the Eagles’ Clare Naughton and the Orange’s Polina Shemanova.
Naughton, a junior, set a new personal record for herself, capping off the night with a career-best 20 kills. She watched her defining performance get toppled on the other side of the net, though, as Shemanova responded with 32 kills of her own. That was enough for the Orange to play spoiler at Power Gym, edging BC in five sets.
To say that the loss did not make for an exciting matchup would be to undermine the Eagles’ (17-9, 8-5 ACC) strong effort. Despite a sizable Syracuse (9-11, 6-7 ACC) lead in the fifth set, the Eagles rarely found themselves in a hole that was too deep to dig out of. Much credit was given to solid defensive play from freshman libero Torey Baum, who led her squad with 12 digs. Carly Kutschke tallied an additional team-best three blocks that served as turning points in each set that they were recorded.
The Eagles took command of the matchup in the first set. Save for a 5-5 tie early on, BC was able to maintain consistent leads following its sloppy 0-3 start. After Syracuse came within one point of BC’s 11-10 lead, a scoring spurt propelled the Eagles to an 18-13 lead. A three-point rally from the Orange was put to rest immediately, as BC took the first battle by a score of 25-19. Jill Strockis’s impressive start played a key role in not only this set but the entire matchup overall, as she ended the night hitting at an error-free 0.444 and tallying four kills off nine attacks.
As for the following set, the exact opposite occurred. Syracuse had the upper hand throughout the majority of this contest, going 15-9 before Eagles head coach Jason Kennedy called a timeout in an effort to clean things up. Relaxed and sloppy defensive play from BC, coupled with a few poor swings, resulted in the visitors extending their lead to a commanding 21-14. An ace from none other than Shemanova clinched the set, 25-17.
The Eagles seemed to pull things back together in a third frame that saw a bevy of back-and-forth play, featuring three lead changes and good runs from both squads. After going up, 6-3, BC allowed four straight points as the visitors took a one-point advantage. The rest of the set was dominated by the Eagles, as stingy defensive play allowed them to pull ahead for 21-13 lead, seemingly closing off comeback possibilities for the Orange.
That proved otherwise, with Syracuse pushing through for an impressive 7-1 point run, but the Eagles finally escaped. Back-to-back kills from Strockis and Amaka Chukwujekwu secured the set by a score of 25-21.
The opening half of the fourth set was the most evenly contested throughout the night––neither team was able to muster up more than a two-point lead. One six-point run from Syracuse allowed for the visitors to go up, 24-19, which gradually led to Abby Casiano’s set-winning kill, forcing a fifth set by a score of 25-20––that sequence spelled disaster for the Eagles.
The momentum most certainly carried over, as the visitors came out firing, establishing an early 10-4 lead that BC would never be able to steal. A combined block from Shemanova and Abby Casiano sealed the deal at 15-8.
Again, the Eagles couldn’t pull off the win, but the team’s power was nonetheless put on display. Cat Balido and Chukwujekwu aided Naughton’s leading kill effort with 13 and 11 of their own in that respective order. Along with Naughton, Jane DeJarld set a personal record of her own, as her 42-assist effort was a season-best.
Still, after winning its first six five-set matches of the season, regression to the mean has struck Kennedy’s side. The Eagles have lost back-to-back matches in five sets, falling to Notre Dame on Sunday before dropping Wednesday’s match against the Orange.
The ACC is a particularly unforgiving conference, so it requires a short memory. Virginia Tech—which has just two conference wins on the year—comes to Power Gym on Friday night, and the Eagles need to bounce back there before hitting the road for three straight matches.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff