Sports, Fall, Volleyball

Eagles Struggle to Generate Offense, Fall to Orange in Third Straight Weekend Sweep

Boston College volleyball can’t seem to catch a break. After going without an offseason this past summer and starting the season late compared to the other teams in the ACC, the Eagles have been playing catch-up since the team came back to campus in August. Even going into this schedule, BC knew it had its work cut out for it. Aside from the Eagles, each of the ACC teams in BC’s pod is nationally ranked, including No. 14 Syracuse (4-4), who completed a weekend sweep against the Eagles (0-6) on Saturday night.

Saturday’s competition between the Eagles and the Orange began similarly to how the first game of the weekend series started. The two teams traded points back and forth, neither truly gaining an early advantage over the other. A key difference between the two contests, however, was that the points exchanged during Saturday night’s games were largely the result of unforced errors by both BC and Syracuse. 

A long kill attempt by senior Clare Naughton, a net violation, and a fatal miscommunication by the Eagles in front of the net gave the Orange easy points. On the other side of the net, an unsuccessful block at the net and a service error by Yuliia Yastrub kept BC within two points of its opponent.

The back-and-forth ended quickly, however, as the miscommunication by the Eagles triggered a run by the Orange to set them up for a first set victory. Syracuse sophomore Marina Markova, who led both teams in kills with 14, started the 5-0 run by securing two kills against the Eagles, helping to push Syracuse to a six-point lead and forcing a timeout from BC head coach Jason Kennedy.

The Eagles were minimally successful in putting a stop to Syracuse’s momentum with a kill by Katrina Jensen coming immediately after the timeout, but the Orange quickly got back in the groove and ran away with the lead. Syracuse’s offense was on the attack, securing point after point as it went on run after run while keeping the Eagles’ point-scoring to a minimum. And with set point on the horizon, Kennedy called a second timeout to give the Eagles a chance to regroup. But BC still had no response to the aggressive Orange offense, giving up the set point, 25-12.

The second set turned out no differently for the Eagles, the young core still reeling after the frustrating first set loss. Syracuse went on a fast 7-1 run to start the set, headlined once again by Markova. Kennedy called another early timeout to make sure the Eagles had a chance to right their path. And once again, the timeout was unsuccessful as a ball handling error by freshman Sophia Lambros gave the Orange another easy point.

Syracuse’s offense continued to dominate the play, limiting BC to two-point runs before regaining the serve and furthering its lead over the visiting team. It wasn’t long before the Orange secured its second set, with Markova and senior Ella Saada making four and six kills respectively. 

When it came to the third set, the Eagles almost looked like a completely different team. Rather than just rolling over and accepting its fate, BC fought to keep up with Syracuse, matching the Orange point for point for nearly the entire set.

Naughton and Silvia Ianeselli, who had seemed absent from the previous two sets, stepped up their game, securing kills and blocks to prevent Syracuse from running away with another set without a fight. The two teams exchanged points throughout the set, remaining within three points of each other up until a media timeout late in the set put a stop to both teams’ momentum. 

Off the break, Lambros tallied her first kill of the match to tie the game up at 15 before everything went downhill for the Eagles. Saada went on a hot streak of her own, tallying three straight kills against BC, forcing a timeout from Kennedy. After a kill from Amaka Chukwujekwu brought the Eagles within two points, Syracuse picked up right where it left off. The Orange went on a 6-4 run to put them at match point, punctuated by a long kill attempt by Ianeselli to bring the set to 24-20.

Just like in previous sets, the Eagles were unable to fend off the set and match point as Elena Karakasi made a deep kill just beyond BC’s coverage. And just like that, the Eagles suffered their fourth-straight set sweep of the season, the second at the hands of the Orange.

The Eagles’ last games of the season are against No. 5 Notre Dame next weekend—the highest ranked opponent they will play this fall. 

At this point in the season, the Eagles are no longer fighting to be a competitive team in the conference. In order for it to consider this season a success, Kennedy’s squad needs to look for substantial improvements within the team rather than determining its worth solely on how many games are in the win and loss columns.

Featured Image Courtesy of Syracuse Athletics

October 18, 2020