first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 19, 2015 at 9:38 pm Contact Tomer: tdlanger@syr.edu | @tomer_langer Sophomore libero Belle Sand started running up from the back left corner of the court. As the ball was falling, she dove forward, extending her left hand as far as possible. The top of Sand’s palm acted as a buffer as she punched the ball back up to one of her teammates, barely giving her team another chance to continue the rally.Syracuse (7-2) had a terrific defensive effort that helped the team defeat New Hampshire (6-7) in four sets in the opening match of the Syracuse Tournament on Saturday night at the Women’s Building.The Orange won the first two sets, before dropping the third one. After a 24-24 tie late in the fourth set, Syracuse scored two straight points to win the match.SU held UNH to low hitting percentages of .071 in the first set and .033 in the second set. This dominant defensive performance rebuffed the Wildcats’ chances to score and helped fuel the Orange offense.“If I’m not getting the first touch, I have trust in all my other defenders and all my other teammates and we all know that we can get it,” Sand said. “We’re just always prepared to get that first ball up.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange flew around the court to record a season-high 78 digs over the course of the match, which helped prevent the Wildcats from gaining momentum.Senior Gosia Wlaszczuk, who finished third on the team with 14 digs, was laying out all over the court over the course of the match. At one point, she dove and tumbled three different times during one rally. The first two times she managed to save the ball and help the Orange continue its rally.Her efforts definitely recognized by her teammates. Sand was quick to heap praise on Wlaszczuk for her work on the defensive end.“That right-back area can be a hard place to defend, and Gosia when she’s back there, you know you can  count on her to do it,” Sand said.Senior outside hitter Monika Salkute was also impressed with Wlaszczuk’s play.“She did really huge improvements since last year, so we’re really happy with that,” Salkute said.It seems that Wlaszczuk had to battle through some pain while she was hustling around the entire game. Midway through the third set she could be seen removing some sort of protective tape off the fingers on one of her hands.In the postgame interview, head coach Leonid Yelin seemed to allude to the fact that Wlaszczuk was playing through an injury today.“She’s a tough kid and she’s always going to fight till the end, and I’m glad she did this,” Yelin said.In a match that could have gone either way, it was the small hustle plays that tilted the final score in SU’s favor.“We just really came together when the times got tough,” Sand said. Commentslast_img