VB : Tough nonconference slate benefits Orange

first_img Published on September 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 Comments Syracuse’s trip to Utah two weekends ago didn’t go exactly as Syracuse planned, but that didn’t mean Kelly Morrisroe was any less confident before last weekend’s Blackbird Invitational. ‘We thought we matched up well with our opponents,’ the assistant coach said in an email to The Daily Orange. ‘We felt confident if we executed each game plan we could win the tournament.’ The Orange proved Morrisroe right, cruising to a 3-0 weekend in which SU lost just two sets total.The undefeated weekend continues another hot start to the season for the Orange in nonconference play. The Orange got out to a school-record 17-0 start a year ago. This season’s nonconference record isn’t quite as flashy, but the Orange’s 8-2 start may be even better than the start from a year ago because SU is facing a tougher slate of non-Big East opponents.Last year, Syracuse fizzled down the stretch, going just 6-9 in its last 15 games, with all nine losses coming in Big East play. But SU feels more prepared to take on the big dogs in conference play this time.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘We’ve played tougher teams this year,’ senior defensive specialist Ashley Williams said. ‘Starting off 18-0 last year was great, but we didn’t know how to come back in sets or take a loss.‘(Now) we know how to deal with it, we know what we need to work on, and we know how to fix things for the future.’Last year, SU was marred by injuries before and during Big East play, but excuses didn’t soften the disappointment in Syracuse’s performance.Not only does the team realize the benefits of playing a tough nonconference schedule, they enjoy it, too. To them, it’s not about the wins and losses, but about the valuable experience they get from these games to prepare them for Big East play.‘These college players give up a ‘normal college life’ for volleyball,’ Morrisroe said. ‘They thrive on competition. If they’re going to play, why not play the best?’A tough nonconference schedule should benefit the freshmen. This year’s team has nine freshmen, the most in recent memory, and SU needs them to be prepared for the Big East season as soon as the Sept. 23 matchup with South Florida arrives.‘Playing against schools that can challenge us will only help us improve as a team,’ junior middle blocker Samantha Hinz said. ‘Especially the freshmen who haven’t seen different styles of play before.’By challenging the freshmen and the rest of the team with the rigorous nonconference schedule, the hope is the Orange will be better prepared for the consistently tougher and more meaningful matches in the Big East.Though the Orange has played some NCAA tournament teams this season, SU’s biggest test comes this weekend at the Blue and White Classic in Buffalo, N.Y. Syracuse will open up Friday against Buffalo on the Bulls’ home court before a doubleheader with Dayton and Central New York rival Cornell on Saturday.This trio of games serves as a perfect final test for Syracuse’s nonconference season.The biggest problem Syracuse has faced so far is winning on opponents’ courts. But a win over Buffalo would give it a .500 road record.‘The teams we lost to were just good teams, and they did better things than we did,’ senior outside hitter Noemie Lefebvre said. ‘I don’t think it had to do with the fact that we were away. We actually enjoyed having hecklers on the road. … It’s just part of the game.’Dayton is perhaps the toughest team the Orange will face all year, and the Cornell game could provide a sample of the atmosphere SU will see in Big East play.All three games give the team a chance to prove something before the Big East season begins the following Friday.But one thing the Orange has already proven through 10 games is its maturity. SU is already getting major contributions from an emerging group of freshmen while the veterans continue to dot all-tournament teams.‘I’m really proud of the maturity level of this team,’ Morrisroe said. ‘Obviously, we have nine new freshmen, and the team has really opened up to thinking about the game in a different way.’[email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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