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Syracuse’s depth struggling to overcome Knutson’s shaky play

first_img Published on February 6, 2019 at 11:04 pm Contact Andrew: arcrane@syr.edu | @CraneAndrew Guzal Yusupova stood behind the service line, bounced the ball and leaned back to serve. It was set point during the opening set against No. 19 Virginia’s Amber O’Dell, and Yusupova had just hit a forehand shot into the net. On the second set point, O’Dell overshot a rally to drop the set.O’Dell bounced her racket off the ground in frustration. The UVA freshman couldn’t recover and Yusupova’s straight-set victory trimmed Syracuse’s deficit to 3-2. But it wasn’t enough, as Gabriela Knutson lost her match at first singles.After last Sunday’s loss to Boston College, Yusupova’s winning streak increased to three matches. Knutson, on the other hand, had three straight losses. Heading into the ITA National Indoor Championship in Seattle this weekend, No. 10 Syracuse (4-2, 0-2 ACC) hasn’t handled Knutson’s recent struggles in singles. The Orange are undefeated when Knutson wins in first singles and are 1-2 when she doesn’t. While Yusupova has shined in her first couple of conference matches, the bottom half of the lineup hasn’t contributed enough for SU to pull out victories as its lost two straight matches.“It just comes down to a few points here or there,” senior Dina Hegab said.For Syracuse, victories haven’t come as easy as earlier in the season. The Orange opened their season by dropping only two matches in their first two wins. Against Purdue on Jan. 27, Knutson lost in three sets to No. 19 Silvia Ambrosio. Knutson called it “(Women’s Tennis Association) WTA tennis,” but that Ambrosio made more plays in the end.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAgainst Virginia, Knutson gave up too many “loose points.” Tied 4-4 in the second set on break point against Virginia’s Meghan Kelley, Knutson sprinted up to the net to play the volley. Instead, Kelley smashed the ball past Knutson. Later that set, trailing 5-3 in the tiebreaker, Knutson double faulted. After the second fault, she didn’t shake the racket, swing her hands or shout at herself like she did earlier in the match. All that followed was a sigh.“It was like a battle with myself, I got up and then I got down,” Knutson said. “It was just up and down, and I hate that.”Two days later, Knutson lost in straight-sets to BC’s unranked Yufei Long in the Orange’s eventual 4-3 loss. Freshman Sofya Treshcheva, who plays at sixth singles, won her first two matches of the year. Then, it took her until last Sunday to pick up her third. Wearing a black arm protective sleeve that stretched from her right shoulder to wrist, Treshcheva dropped her match in straight sets to Virginia two days before that. Hegab clinched four matches in a row for Syracuse to start the season, but hasn’t won a set since.When SU’s struggles in doubles are combined with a Knutson loss, Hegab and Treshcheva need at least one point between the two of them to accumulate four points. Against Virginia, one would have been enough. Against BC, they both needed to win. Neither happened.In those losses, Yusupova carried the latter half of singles slots. After spending her time the last two years in the top of the lineup at Washington State, she’s found success at fourth singles. But her teammates, specifically at fifth and sixth singles, need to follow.The Orange advanced to Seattle for the first time in program history through their depth. Despite Yusupova’s success, shaky doubles play and Knutson’s singles struggles have hurt the Orange. If Syracuse wants to break out of its losing spell, the fifth and sixth singles slots need to rebound.“We’re deep,” head coach Younes Limam said. “And we know that we can get those singles (points).” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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