September 16, 2020

Syracuse qualifies for 1st-ever NCAA tournament, to play Yale

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ After qualifying for the NIVC last season, its first postseason tournament appearance in program history, Syracuse returned six seniors: Witherspoon, Ebangwese, Jalissa Trotter, Mariia Levanova, Anastasiya Gorelina and Christina Oyawale. Syracuse finished fourth in ACC play, with its 14 ACC wins tied for the most since joining the conference in 2013. Still, unlike her coach, Ebangwese wasn’t certain SU was safe entering the night.“All signs and logic says, ‘yes, we’re probably going to make it,’” Ebangwese said. “But it’s not real, it’s not official until you see your name.”Syracuse began its season with three tournaments away from the Women’s Building. During the Marquette Tournament, it played Brigham Young University, USC, and Marquette, three ranked opponents in three days. From there, the Orange used a 4-0 start in ACC play, its best since joining the conference in 2013, to reach 14 wins.On Oct. 28, SU knocked off then-No. 22 Louisville, its first victory over a ranked opponent since 2015. The experience of playing ranked opponents during the preseason tournaments, the Orange felt, helped prepare it for teams like the Cardinals who awaited it in the ACC.Eric Storms | Staff Writer“We didn’t necessarily win the [preseason tournament] games,” junior libero Aliah Bowllan said earlier in the season. “But we learned a lot and we were playing with the best teams in the nation.“We were playing with them and able to keep up with them.” And shortly past the midway point of the twentieth hour on Sunday night, it was rewarded for those early season losses, its five-game winning streak, and everything in between. Rewarded with more than another appearance in the NIVC, and rewarded with something that no other SU volleyball player ever experienced.After Syracuse popped up on the screen and the players erupted with cheers, Yelin remained stoic. As Ebangwese, Oyawale, and others hugged one another, he spoke to a recruit over the phone. When Yelin ended the call, his phone was already blowing up. For years his teams had searched for a tournament bid, set back by the change from the Big East to the ACC, he said.“I got so many text messages from former players and they’re so happy,” Yelin said, “and I responded back to them that [this] wouldn’t be happening if you didn’t build this kind of platform for this kind of game, for these kids.” Comments Published on November 25, 2018 at 8:36 pm Contact Eric: estorms@syr.edu SU head coach Leonid Yelin was near certain Syracuse would reach the NCAA tournament. At 8:29 p.m., one minute before the NCAA selection show was supposed to begin, Yelin strolled into the room in Manley Field House where the Syracuse watch party was being held. After pacing in and out for about half an hour, he didn’t smile, speak, or show any sign of nervousness. Instead, he started fiddling with his phone. Eventually, he took a seat next to associate coach Erin Little. “Just to know how it works for so many years, I was pretty confident,” Yelin said. Yet, everyone other than Yelin was anxious. Senior Amber Witherspoon said the wait felt like “centuries,”  and fellow senior Santita Ebangwese tried to pass the time by studying flashcards for an upcoming exam related to her bioengineering major.But soon, the Orange heard what they were waiting for. When “Syracuse” appeared on the screen beneath “Penn State” and “Howard,” the room erupted in cheer. For the first time in program history, Syracuse (18-8, 14-4 Atlantic Coast) is headed to the NCAA Tournament. The Orange earned a birth in the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament and will face Yale (19-4, 14-1 Ivy League) on Nov. 30, in a match hosted by No. 8 Penn State.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textlast_img read more

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