Setter Handley commands Syracuse on court as freshman

first_img Published on October 29, 2013 at 11:52 pm Contact Eric: [email protected] Erica Handley, at just 18 years of age, was asked to be the starting setter for Syracuse.Coming all the way from Lakeville North (Minn.) High School, the freshman arrived on campus in January to start balancing her social life and school work.When Handley began practicing with the team in the summer, fiery second-year head coach Leonid Yelin started her right away, asking her to lead court communications with the international-heavy Orange (10-12, 5-5 Atlantic Coast).Roughly two-thirds of the way into the season, she has emerged as one of the team’s best players. After two more strong performances this past weekend, Handley got a pleasant surprise on Monday night when she was informed that she had been named the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Week.“It feels good just knowing that it’s all worth working hard,” Handley said. “Just working hard and really focusing on what coach is telling me to do. Just really pushing myself past my limits to try to improve as much as I can.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAt the beginning of the season, Handley said she marked this honor down as one she would like to achieve in her first collegiate season. On Tuesday, she said that the award showed that the hard work and determination she has applied is paying off.“I was pretty surprised,” Handley said. “That was another one of my little goals to get, you always have those little things you are working your way towards.”Outside hitter Nicolette Serratore recognized the pressure Handley has shouldered this season. She is basically asked to quarterback the offense, call all the plays and is pivotal to the team operating effectively.But it seems to Serratore that Handley is dealing with the pressure just fine.“It’s definitely going to help her have more confidence and she’s a leader on the court,” Serratore said. “As a setter she’s going to be a leader automatically. It will just give her a boost of confidence.”This past weekend was Handley’s best. Particularly Sunday, as she racked up 55 assists, eight digs, four kills and three aces against Clemson.Early in the year, Yelin mentioned that Handley’s weakness was with her defense. He explained that due to her slow jumping, she had to learn the timing to become an effective blocker.“I think her defense has gotten a lot better,” Serratore said. “She started off kind of slow, but she has caught up to the rhythm of the game and has gotten a lot faster.”Although Handley does agree that her defense has improved, she feels that it is more the improvement in her understanding of the game as well as decision-making that has propelled the team to a .500 record in conference play.“I think my decision making,” Handley said of her biggest improvement. “Depending on the passes that come at me and being able to use the hitters that are stronger during that game or that point.”Her freshman year did not get off to the start that Handley wanted, but everything is now beginning to fall into place in connection with the team’s overall success.Assistant coach Erin Little said that Handley has been a big part of the Orange’s improvement.“It’s great to see the ladies on the team start to see the outcome of all the hard work they have been putting in this summer and fall,” Little said. “They are playing together as a team, all 11 players, stepping into the role the team needs at that time, and Erica has naturally become one of the leaders of that team.”Handley’s constant upbeat approach, despite a slow start this season, is just one intangible she brings to the court. She is a huge part of the team’s mid-season turnaround and is finally being noticed by the rest of the conference.“She is a really talented girl,” Serratore said. “We just needed the team to kind of show that we were good as a whole for someone to recognize that she was a big part of it.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img