How Surprising is No. 16 Syracuse Tennis’ 9-0 Start?
By Samuel Reis | @SamuelReisTV
Citrus TV Tennis Beat Reporter
Just a couple of weeks ago, Syracuse was off to a 6-0 start after defeating all non-conference opponents. At that point, it was evident that the Orange were in solid form to begin the season but the real question was: How would they manage once conference play got underway and the quality of opponents improved? Now three matches into ACC action, the answer to that question: very well.
Sure, there are still a lot of matches left in ACC play, but that can not take away from the fact that SU has defied all odds through its first nine matches. The 9-0 start matches the 1978-79 season as the best start in program history and Syracuse is two wins away from breaking that record.
The most impressive aspect of this extraordinary start to the season is that the Orange have a six player roster. This is something that’s unprecedented because it is the minimum number of players required on a team and you rarely see such a small roster in college tennis, especially at the Division I level. Syracuse had eight players on its roster last season. Sofya Treshcheva graduated and Liubov Kostenko transferred to Baylor. Head Coach Younes Limam could not bring in any freshman or transfers, which left him with six returning players this season. The Orange went 10-11 last season and 4-9 in conference play, lost some players this season, and are somehow off to a 9-0 start this season. Makes sense, right?
The word momentum is thrown around quite a bit in sports, but it seems like that has been a big factor in Syracuse’s impressive run. The team has played with a humble swagger and has simply managed to string together win after win, seemingly building off of each match.
After winning most of their non-conference matches comfortably, the Orange have shown that they can overcome adversity as of late. None of the first three conference matches of ACC play were easy going. In fact, Syracuse trailed in all three of them at one point. In the duals against Boston College and Miami, the opposition took the doubles point and SU came back in singles. In the dual against Florida St., the Orange trailed 3-2 and won the last two singles matches on court to squeak out the victory. Even more incredible, all three ACC matches have lasted three or more hours. Again, this is a roster of six players pulling this off!
This past weekend a true statement was laid down by the ‘Cuse. SU entered the weekend No. 53 in the ITA rankings, even with a 7-0 record up to that point. Then after beating two teams ranked ahead of them, including a top-25 opponent in Miami, the Orange made the eye-opening leap to No. 16 in the country in this week’s rankings. That is their highest ranking since February 2019.
The 5-2 win over Miami on Sunday was certainly the most impressive of the season. The Hurricanes dominated SU in doubles and it appeared as though they would comfortably hand the Orange their first loss. However, Syracuse regrouped and completely turned the dual on its head, winning five of six singles matches. In No. 1 singles, Zeynep Erman pulled off an upset as she dismantled the 8th ranked singles player in the country, Alexa Noel, in straight sets. That was a result no one could have seen coming, especially considering Erman had lost her previous two singles matches and was dealing with apparent back pain.
Looking ahead to this weekend, it is the busiest one of the season. The Orange are home Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, taking on No. 15 Virginia, Coppin St., and Virginia Tech. Virginia will likely pose a bigger challenge than Miami. The Cavaliers have four singles players ranked top-125 in the country and two doubles teams ranked top-60 in the country. In spite of that, SU has proven that no obstacle is too great for them.
How long can Syracuse remain undefeated? Will the team manage to stay healthy throughout the entire season? These are questions that remain to be answered, but the Orange have already pulled off an incredible feat through their first nine matches and that makes the rest of the season that much more intriguing. This is a team that has grabbed the attention of many due to an exceptional start that not many could have predicted just a few weeks ago. That is the beauty of sports and we will see what the rest of the 2023 Syracuse Tennis story has to offer going forward.