Volleyball

Syracuse’s hitting percentage curtailed by errors

Sabrina Toto | Contributing Photographer

Leah Levert and Syracuse have made crucial errors that have cut down on its hitting percentage.

Anastasiya Gorelina rose up and pounded the ball far out of bounds to give the Duke another point and a lead it never looked back from.

The hit, which happened late in the fourth set of the Oct. 30 game, was the cap of a 12-error day for Gorelina, almost completely erasing the 14 kills she had in that same game.

Syracuse (7-19, 6-10 Atlantic Coast) can attribute a lot of its season’s struggles to a low hitting percentage. Its .177 hitting percentage is good for 13th in the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference and 243rd in the nation.

“Volleyball is a game of mistakes, how you get points is by people making mistakes,” libero Belle Sand said. “When you make a mistake you have to get over it, that’s the game.”

Hitting percentage is calculated by taking a team or player’s kills, subtracting errors and dividing that number by total attack attempts. Because of this, a team like Syracuse that commits a multitude of errors tends to suffer in this category.

Syracuse’s leader in hitting percentage is Santita Ebangwese at .305. Ebangwese is the lone player on the Orange to have above a .300 hitting percentage with at least 50 total attack attempts.

Unlike most players on the team, Ebangwese often uses a side-to-side glide when she hits the ball, throwing off middle blockers and leading to a higher percentage because opponents aren’t there to block her hits.

Only four Orange players have above a .211 hitting percentage, the ACC average. Of those four players, only the top three have over 100 attempts, as Amber Witherspoon sits at only 99 on the season.

The Orange is ninth in the ACC standings, corresponding closely with its 13th-ranked hitting percentage. North Carolina leads the conference in hitting percentage and also owns the conference’s best record.

Syracuse is a very young team. Tweleve of its 15 players are underclassmen, including one redshirt sophomore. There is a clear learning curve for younger players and that could lead to more errors by the team.

“We need to make sure (our players) are learning how to make right decisions,” head coach Leonid Yelin said. “It’s a lack of experience, that’s what’s leading to a lot of unforced mistakes.”

But SU’s youth isn’t the only thing to blame for its low hitting percentage. Gorelina, a junior, leads the team in kills, yet only has a .142 hitting percentage — thanks in part to her leading the team with 135 errors.

Gorelina, Mackenzie Weaver and Kendra Lukacs lead the team with 724, 664 and 498 attack attempts, respectively, but none have a hitting percentage over .158.

The Orange’s worst games in terms of hitting percentage this year came against Iowa State when SU managed just .031. Syracuse has been held under .100 in four.

Syracuse’s peak this season was a .282 performance against Miami, leading to a 3-1 win in which the Orange won three straights sets for the first time all year. It was SU’s most dominant win.

“When we have a high hitting percentage you can tell the team is a different team,” Sand said of the team’s morale in relation to its low hitting percentage. “We have a young team, I could almost guarantee that our hitting percentage will not be this low next year.”

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