Salkute excels in 2-position role for Syracuse volleyball

first_imgSyracuse was without two of its three outside hitters at the start of the season.Nicolette Serratore, last year’s second-best offensive threat, was hurt before the start of preseason and Valeriya Shaipova was still recovering from tearing her ACL early last year.With only one outside hitter left on the roster, SU head coach Leonid Yelin had to make adjustments.“Sometimes you make (a) decision not because you’re smart but because you have no choice,” Yelin said. “We need another outside hitter. We can’t play with one hitter.”He turned to junior middle blocker Monika Salkute to fill the hole. Her change in positions has developed her into one of the team’s top scoring threats.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThough she had only played middle blocker, the position she’s played since her early childhood, Salkute has used her experience with SU (7-7) and skills she learned playing beach volleyball to play as a right-side hitter and middle blocker.“I’m trying to be a player who just helps the team to be better like in any case,” Salkute said.  “It’s just like I can play whatever (Yelin) feels like I can be the best.”Salkute played on the left side in preseason as the outside hitter. Even though she put up the numbers the team needed, Yelin said, the spot wasn’t the right fit for her.So he moved her to the right side, where she has excelled.Over the past five games, she has led the Orange with 70 kills. Her best performance was a 20-kill showing in a four-set win over Cornell on Sept. 21. She totaled twice as many points as the next-highest scorer in the match.Salkute is second on the team in kills and digs with 156 and 130, respectively.  She has more kills and nearly twice as many digs than she had all of last season in less than half the amount of total sets played.“I think she just stepped up in the moment when (the) team needed,” outside hitter Silvi Uattara said.She’s brought the tempo she’s used to in the middle into her new role in the back row.The back row usually gets slower and higher sets. But Salkute, even when she plays on the back row, receives quicker sets from her teammates and returns the ball before the defense has time to set up.“She’s not hitting as powerful like Silvi, for instance, but just because it’s set so fast and she’s hitting fast it’s less time to react on the back row,” Yelin said.The hardest part about the transition, Salkute said, has been blocking. The player on the outside has to pick where to block, which has been difficult for her. But she has been using her experience playing for the national beach volleyball team in her home country of Lithuania to help.“You have to read the player  — read his arm — like kind (of) predict one step ahead where he will hit so that help me a lot like in beach and to show this in the court,” Salkute said.The initial read has to be even better in beach volleyball, Yelin said, because the players can’t move as quickly in the sand.Though blocking is one of the best parts of Salkute’s game, Yelin said, she cited it as an area in which she needs to improve.In Salkute’s place, freshman Leah Levert has played at middle blocker. Though she’s played well, Yelin said she isn’t ready for the full-time job. For now, Salkute plays both positions in different rotations.Had the team been healthy at the start of the season, Yelin said he would not have moved Salkute.“I would feel crazy. ‘Why you doing this?’” he said.But now that he’s seen her play on the right side, he doesn’t want to move her back.Said Yelin: “She can see like maybe that’s her future … playing professionally.” Comments Published on September 30, 2014 at 12:01 am Contact Jon: [email protected] | @jmettus Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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