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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Zack Greinke helps Dodgers clinch home field in NLDS

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error As Dodger Stadium readies for its third consecutive postseason in the next week, Dodgers co-ace Zack Greinke made sure his team would have home-field advantage in the National League Division Series.Greinke followed the commanding no-hitter by Washington’s Max Scherzer that completed a doubleheader sweep of the New York Mets on Saturday with another Cy Young-worthy performance Saturday night in a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.Greinke (19-3) not only clinched home-field advantage in the NLDS for a Dodgers team that thrives at Chavez Ravine with a 54-26 home record, he also nailed down his second career ERA title by allowing just one run over eight innings. He also won the 2009 American League Cy Young with Kansas City.Greinke also appeared postseason ready.“He’s been unbelievable all year. He goes out and he knows what he’s doing and he executes it,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, who hit a solo homer in the first inning. “We’re happy for him. It was a typical Zack Greinke outing. “And now you get to see Kersh and Zack pitch for us here in the playoffs.”When the Dodgers open the best-of-five NLDS against the New York Mets, it will host Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday and a potential Game 5 on Oct. 15.Greinke locked in the NL ERA title with a 1.66 mark on the season, edging other Cy Young award hopeful Jake Arriata of the Cubs (1.77 ERA). Greinke also won the AL ERA title in 2009 with Kansas City.“The last time, I felt more dominant,” Greinke said. “This time, I felt I had the whole team behind me. They don’t make too many errors here.“The last three years, I felt I have been pretty consistent. This year, I felt even better.”Greinke leads the major leagues in winning percentage (.864) and WHIP (0.84) and has thrown at least six innings in each of his 32 starts this season.Greinke also surpassed Arriata for the MLB lead with his 30th quality start (at least six innings pitched, less than three runs allowed).Greinke had just one major hiccup — a one-out homer by Austin Hedges over the left-field fence in the fifth inning.Otherwise Greinke was in control, scattering four hits with eight strikeouts and one walk in eight innings while recording 77 strikes on 108 pitches.By striking out pinch-hitter Derek Norris to lead off the eighth inning, Greinke recorded his 200th strikeout this season and joined Dean Chance (1964), Luis Tiant (1968), Bob Gibson (1968) and Dwight Gooden (1985) as pitchers with 200-plus strikeouts and a sub-1.70 ERA in the same season.“This year I don’t pay attention to strikeouts as much,” Greinke said. “In years past, that would’ve been a bigger deal to me. Now I’m just trying to get outs. That’s all I pay attention to, I guess.”In his last 17 starts, Greinke has recorded a 14-1 mark with a 1.62 ERA (22 ER/122 IP) while going 8-0 in his last eight home starts with a 1.08 ERA (7 ER, 58.1 ERA).Home-field advantage might ring true for Greinke.“It definitely helps, but I don’t think it is the deciding factor. I don’t know if it’s like the NFL or NBA where it’s a huge, huge deal. But it definitely helps,” Greinke said.“Pitching at home, you are a little more comfortable. But I feel good in New York too. I’m comfortable in that park too.”Kenley Jansen wrapped up home-field advantage in the NLDS with a scoreless ninth inning for his 36th save in 38 opportunities.Turner provided the Dodgers with a jolt by blasting a 404-foot homer to right-center field in the first inning for a 1-0 lead.The Dodgers scored their other run when Howie Kendrick came home on an Adrian Gonzalez double play grounder in the fourth inning.The Dodgers were also keeping close eyes on right fielder Yasiel Puig, who returned to the lineup after missing the previous 34 games with a strained right hamstring.Puig extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a flare single in his first at-bat and hit a groundout to second base in his second at-bat and popped out to third base in his final at-bat.Puig was not tested much in right field (he did catch final fly out to end game), but did make a hard sliding attempt into the right-field barrier in foul territory.“I felt good,” Puig said in Spanish. “I did a lot of work. I feel I like do not need that much work to feel warmed up or to feel that I can play and have good at-bats.”A slimmed-down Puig joked that they made him do liposuction in Arizona but added he feels ready to make an impact.Puig also said he accepted that he might have to take on more of a supplemental role.“Our goal is to get to the World Series and win the World Series,” Puig said. “Whether I start or whether I don’t start, I just want to be there for my team and help in any way I can.”center_img By Tony Cinigliotony.ciniglio@langnews.com@tciniglio on TwitterThe decorative bunting has yet to be set up. The postseason signage has yet to be displayed.last_img read more

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