Syracuse tennis success follows solidified doubles pairings

first_img Published on April 12, 2017 at 11:13 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3 Early in the season, Syracuse’s doubles pairings were far from settled. Head coach Younes Limam freely mixed partners and a season-ending injury to stalwart senior Valeria Salazar after one game only further blurred the picture.Yet lately, Syracuse’s doubles pairings have been the most consistent thing about the team.“At the beginning of the spring season, knowing Valeria can’t go,” Limam said, “it was a little bit challenging to know what combinations are going to give us a doubles point. Obviously, if you know who’s going to be playing with whom, it’s a little bit easier.”Syracuse’s (7-10, 4-6 Atlantic Coast) doubles point wins strongly correlate to its wins in overall matches. In its first eight games of the season, Syracuse’s 1-7 mark in doubles resulted in a 2-6 overall record. Syracuse has improved to 4-5 in doubles and 5-4 overall since.The key cogs to the Orange turnaround, Gabriela Knutson and Miranda Ramirez, began their time as the permanent doubles pairing in the last match of the season-opening eight-game slide. Before then, SU rotated through different doubles pairings, looking for the right fit. Since Knutson and Ramirez became an official pairing, the duo has won six of the 10 matches.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textKnutson spent much of last season playing with Salazar, a pairing ranked in the Top 10 to begin this year. Once SU ruled Salazar out for the season, Limam searched for her replacement. He tried playing Knutson with Anna Shkudun and Libi Mesh but settled on Ramirez.“I think they (Salazar and Ramirez) are a little bit different,” Limam said. “Miranda has good hands at the net, and Gabby sets her up most of the time.”But Knutson and Ramirez aren’t enough alone. It takes two out of the three doubles matches to win the doubles point.With its first pairing in place, Syracuse pieced together a second stable one on March 5 against Notre Dame. That day, Dina Hegab and Shkudun began a stretch of playing seven doubles matches together in eight games. The team’s six most recent doubles matches have come at the second spot, and Shkudun and Hegab are 4-3 in their time together.“I think the best thing for us now is how we’re working as a team,” Hegab said. “We kind of expect what the other one is going to do for this point.”The remaining healthy players, Mesh, Maria Tritou and Nicole Mitchell, are pieced together week by week to form SU’s third pairing. Tritou appears the most consistent, and is usually featured alongside Mitchell.Two recent matches against ranked teams demonstrate the importance of winning the doubles point.On March 26, then-No. 6 Georgia Tech visited Syracuse as an ACC power visiting a conference underling. But the Yellow Jackets narrowly escaped with a 4-3 win. Shkudun and Hegab won their second doubles match, but Knutson and Ramirez fell in a tiebreak in first doubles, 6-7 (4-7). Had SU won the tiebreak and the singles finished accordingly, the Orange would have pulled off the upset, like it did two weeks later.On Sunday, Syracuse knocked off No. 42 Miami behind its doubles team. Knutson and Ramirez won at first doubles, and Mitchell and Tritou escaped with a 7-5 win at third. The final score was a familiar 4-3, but this time in SU’s favor.Syracuse’s improvement throughout the season has mirrored its improved consistency to start the match at the doubles. Players have grown comfortable with their partners, a sharp contrast to earlier this season when Knutson said, “We have no idea,” regarding double’s pairings. Now, they know.“I think it helps a little bit,” Ramirez said. “Just because you’re prepared.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

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Minnows Panama up to task against star-studded Belgium

first_img“We are not favourites but if we have a good day anything can happen,” said Gomez, Panama’s veteran Colombian coach who is usually known by his nickname ‘Bolillo’.While Panama’s squad contains no real household names, and half a dozen players well into their 30s, Roberto Martinez’s Belgians have come to this World Cup with a golden generation led by the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.“The squad is prepared to come up against a team of many carats, and a great coach who is also a great person,” said Gomez.“They have the best players in the world, except for Messi and Cristiano. Belgium are candidates to win the title, and we are proud to be facing them.”Iceland followed their run to the quarter-finals at Euro 2016 by holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw in Moscow on Saturday, although they were helped by Lionel Messi’s second-half penalty miss.Gomez is hoping his side can take inspiration from that performance to claim their first World Cup point in Group G, even if he did not want to compare his group of journeymen with a more experienced Icelandic outfit.“Iceland qualified ahead of Croatia and did well in the Euros as well, and they were coming up against an Argentina side who are not on the same level as Belgium just now.“There is a bigger gulf between Belgium and Panama. Nobody denies they are the favourites, but if we have a good day we can get something.”Gomez, a former Colombia and Ecuador coach, called on his side to have “warm bodies and cool heads” for their bow on Russia’s Black Sea coast.The heat and humidity here in southern Russia could help them against Belgium, but their recent record is a source of concern, particularly in front of goal.The Panamanians scored just nine in 10 qualifiers, and they arrived in Russia after scoring just one goal in their last five matches.That included a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland and a 1-0 reverse in Norway 10 days ago. It is a worrying outlook, especially with England to follow next weekend.“Panama are not a team who score a lot of goals. We are working hard as a team, but we come into the World Cup with problems putting the ball in the net.”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Panama players train in Sochi on Sunday, in the shadow of the Caucasus mountains © AFP / Adrian DENNISSOCHI, Russian Federation, Jun 17 – Hernan Dario Gomez leads minnows Panama into their World Cup debut on Monday mindful that Iceland’s efforts in holding Argentina have shown that “anything can happen”.Panama caused a sensation by qualifying for Russia from the CONCACAF zone at the expense of the United States, but they have been handed just about the toughest start imaginable — a star-studded Belgium await in Sochi on Monday evening.last_img read more

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