Previewing 2018 Volleyball: Syracuse and Virginia Tech

boston college volleyball

Two weeks ago, Boston College volleyball snapped a seven-game losing streak with a sweep of North Carolina at Power Gym, a program-first win over the Tar Heels and one that seemed like it could mark a turning point in what had been a dreadful start to conference play. Last weekend’s road trip, however, was more of what happened before—the Eagles (13-11, 3-9 Atlantic Coast) dropped back-to-back matchups to No. 24 Louisville and Notre Dame, two top-five teams in the conference. So head coach Jason Kennedy’s team is now 1-9 over its last 10 games as it hits the road for two games—a rare midweek game against Syracuse (13-7, 9-3) before a Sunday afternoon matchup with Virginia Tech (13-11, 4-8).

Who is BC playing?
Syracuse and Virginia Tech

When is BC playing?
Syracuse: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 5 p.m.
VTech: Sunday, Nov. 4, 1 p.m.

Where is BC playing?
Syracuse: Women’s Building, Syracuse, N.Y.
VTech: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.

How to Watch:
Both games will be available on WatchESPN via ACC Network Extra—the links are here for Syracuse and VTech.

By the Numbers:

BC:

1) Since winning its first two conference games against Clemson and Georgia Tech, the Eagles have gone just 1-9 in ACC play. The struggles can be linked to their offense, as they rank 10th of 15 teams in hitting percentage but are holding opponents to a .187 hitting percentage, fourth best in the conference.

2) Makenzie Morrison is the lone BC player to appear on the conference leaderboards, ranking eighth in the ACC in digs per set with 3.74. Morrison has struggled to replicate her high dig numbers from earlier in the year, however, as she’s averaging just 2.56 per set over the last seven games.

3) Part of the struggles for the offense in conference play have been the number of times the Eagles have been turned away by opponent blocks. BC ranks 14th in blocks allowed per set against ACC opponents, conceding 2.97—just .07 shy of being the worst.

Syracuse:

1) The Eagles’ struggles with avoiding blocks could be a huge storyline in the matchup with the Orange—they lead the ACC in blocks per set by a healthy margin, totaling 3.13.

2) Syracuse has the conference leader in both kill percentage and kills. Santita Ebangwese boasts a .407 mark throughout 81 sets played, while Polina Shemanova has piled up 359 kills—18 more than the second-place player despite playing one less set.

3) The Orange are coming off their first top-25 win since 2015, having knocked off the 24th-ranked Cardinals on the road last weekend. It was a five-set thriller, with Syracuse falling behind 2-1 in sets before rallying for consecutive wins.

VTech:

1) The Hokies have faced similar struggles against ACC opponents and have dropped six of their last seven. They’ve lost nine of 11 sets in the current three-game losing streak, which featured losses to Duke, Miami, and Florida State.

2) Ester Talamazzi and Kaity Smith have been weapons on serves this season—both rank in the top 10 in the ACC in service kills. Talamazzi is second with 31, while Smith is not far behind in seventh with 24.

3) In conference play, VTech ranks dead last with a .162 hitting percentage. Paired with an opponent hitting percentage nearly twice that at .254, the Hokies have consistently found themselves in early holes they can’t dig out of.

Last Meetings:

Syracuse: The Orange swept the season series between the two teams in 2017, winning 3-1 at home on Sept. 20 before taking a 3-0 decision at Power Gym on Oct. 11. Both were midweek games and came amid prolonged skids for the Eagles, with the first loss part of a six-game losing streak while the second started a similarly long five-game skid.

VTech: Back on Oct. 29 of last year, BC dropped the first set but turned the match around, winning three sets in order to claim one of its four conference wins. The Eagles were paced in the 3-1 victory by a trio of players recording double-doubles, as Jane Dejarld (37 assists, 11 digs), Lynn Braakhuis (12 kills, 15 digs), and Makenna Goss (14 kills, 14 assists) starred.

Outlook:

This is the seventh week of ACC play, and BC is still looking for its fourth win. All of the excitement around a spotless 9-0 start has fizzled a bit, and rightfully so—there’s nothing like one of college sports’ toughest conferences handing you a reality check. Still, there’s several games the Eagles likely want back, with North Carolina State, Virginia, and Wake Forest coming to mind. This two-game week is a chance for BC to reverse last week’s misfortunes and get a bump heading into the final four games of the regular season. It starts with a tough draw against the Orange, who pose a matchup nightmare with their block—but BC is coming off a loss to Louisville in which it really was in the game the entire match, even winning the first set. If it can play like that, Syracuse could be a marquee win to equal last year’s ACC win total, while the Hokies have struggled mightily and should be dispatched easily if the Eagles maintain that high level.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

Bradley Smart
About Bradley Smart 199 Articles
Bradley is the associate sports editor for The Heights. He believes that America does truly run on Dunkin, March is the best month, baseball teams should always wear stirrups, and being down 3-1, in anything, is never cause for concern. You can follow him on Twitter @bradleysmart15.