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Syracuse Volleyball: Now Would Be a Good Time To Get on the Bandwagon

The SU women's volleyball team has been one of the best surprises on the hill this season.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to hop on the bandwagon of a Syracuse non-revenue sport, well, you have several options.

Sure, Syracuse men's soccer and women's field hockey have dominated of late, but the biggest eye-opener of the year may be the success of the women's volleyball team.

One of Syracuse's worst teams of 2014 has developed into one of the school's best in 2015.

The Orange is 13-4 midway through the season and already has more conference wins (4) than it did all of last year (2).

And head coach Leonid Yelin is on pace for his first winning season in Year Four at Syracuse.

"It's really a team effort," Yelin told at the start of conference play.  "Before it was always the upperclassmen. This time, the upperclassmen are the leaders, but our freshmen and sophomores are a big part of it not just a helper."

Syracuse went 9-21 in 2014, the worst record for any of the school's women's team sports and the worst winning percentage (.300) in the team's 43-year history.

In the midst of that season, Yelin told me that Syracuse's transition to the ACC was like learning how to drive stick shift. The decision-making, speed and mental strength needed to master it aren't easy to develop at first.

"Do you remember when you started with stick shift? I remember," Yelin said. "I thought that it's impossible. It's impossible."

So far, Syracuse is acing the test.

And while it's still early in conference play, its early results suggest a 180 shift from last season.

SU has wins over Boston College, Clemson, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, a group of teams who went a combined 5-0 against the Orange in 2014.

Syracuse leads the ACC in total blocks with sophomore Leah Levert and freshman Santita Ebangwese (an Under Armour All-American) leading the way.

Freshman setter Jalissa Trotter has stepped in a defensive specialist role and ranks in the top five for Syracuse in both assists and digs.

What's changed this season is Syracuse's ability to complement that strong defensive play with an effective offense.

SU's offense is led by outside hitters Silvi Uattara, Monika Salkute and Nicolette Serratore. Uattara, a senior outside hitter from Russia, has a team high 190 kills and has led the Orange in kills in all four seasons.

Her career total of 1,365 kills ranks sixth on Syracuse's all-time list.

Salkute, a senior from Lithuania, has 175 kills while Serratore has 170.

Another key contributor is senior setter Gosia Wlaszczuk. She transitioned from outside hitter to setter at the start of last season because of a back injury. But she's particularly settled into that role this season as Syracuse's totals for assists per set, kills per set and attack percentage have all gone up.

Yelin said the setter's role in volleyball parallels a quarterback's in football.

"You have the best offense in the world and if you don't have a quarterback, you're not going to play well," Yelin said. "They're never going to show how they could play."

Next up on the schedule is an important match tonight (Wednesday) at Boston College with crucial #OrangeEagle points up for grabs.