Prep volleyball: Syracuse, leaning on balance and adaptability, remains unbeaten in Region 1
PLEASANT VIEW — For whatever reason, Syracuse High’s volleyball team tends to have trouble when it plays at Weber — according to SHS head coach Corrie Vigil.
It should be noted the Titans have now won in Weber’s gym six straight times after Tuesday’s four-set win over the Warriors, but those wins are rarely routine.
But Syracuse still finds a way to get past Weber (13-12, 5-4 Region 1) on the road, as it did in a 21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-16 win Tuesday.
“We started stepping up on defense, with blocking and then our serve receive started to become better. Before, we struggled a ton with that, missing a lot of serves and some easy points,” Vigil said. “In the end, they did what they needed to do.”
Syracuse (17-3, 8-0) remained unbeaten in Region 1 with four games left and kept a two-game lead on Davis in the region standings. The Titans are in a good position to repeat as region champions, which would also be a fourth Region 1 crown in six seasons, should they finish the job.
Region 1’s tougher from top to bottom this year. Syracuse is 8-0 and everyone else, save for Layton, has taken turns beating each other in the region.
That the Titans are now 8-0 speaks to team balance — they’ve typically been solid hitting, defending, blocking, passing, etc. — and adaptability.
“They really try to make changes when we ask, and just be real patient on offense, that’s one of the biggest things we’ve had to work on, and they’ve done that,” Vigil said. “I think we’re our best when we have balance, when we’ve got our middles involved, and again it was kind of hard to get middles involved because we didn’t pass well today, but once we do, I feel like we’re pretty strong because we have the balance.”
One of said middle hitters, junior Kallie Johansen, had eight kills on 11 attempts with one error, for a .636 hitting percentage (a good hitting game is typically somewhere around .300).
Along with the eventual success in the middle, the Titans served a season-high 17 aces as a team, seven of which came from senior outside hitter Mikelle Neilson. She, like Vigil, pointed out how crucial serve receive passing was for Syracuse throughout the match.
“I think a big deal for us was our serve receive, the first set we were struggling, we couldn’t get any passes to be able to run the ball and we couldn’t do anything with that,” Neilson said.
Weber won the first set with some good serving, throwing the Titans out of system several times. The Warriors got their first-set lead up to 24-20 and converted two points later to go 1-0 up in the match.
Both the second and third sets were close before Syracuse pulled away at the end of both. The fourth set was close at first, then the Titans settled in and won comfortably.
Neilson served six straight points in the fourth set starting at 16-13, and an ace down the line where the ball knuckled in the air made it 21-13.
“My coach says serve aggressive, so I consider that, ‘Ok, I gotta do my job,'” Neilson said. “We didn’t practice anything specific (yesterday), but we just went for it. It was good.”
Syracuse and Weber’s last meeting went five sets, which at the time may have surprised some since the Warriors are heavy on juniors and sophomores this year and came into 2022 as somewhat of an unknown in the region.
Since the first Syracuse match, Weber had gone 7-4 including three straight region wins by either four or five sets before Tuesday. Curiously, none of the Warriors’ nine region matches so far have ended in three sets.
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at email@example.com, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.