Looking Back On a Bizarre Season For Syracuse Tennis
By Sam Reis | @SamuelReisTV
Citrus TV Tennis Beat Reporter
When comparing last season to this season, the record says that Syracuse had one more win this campaign than 2022. The Orange finished 10-11 last year and currently stand at 11-10 in 2023. While those records might be very similar, both seasons feel quite different.
In 2022, the Orange won their first two matches before suffering their first loss. Over the course of the year, SU’s longest win streak was four and its longest losing streak was four. Overall, Syracuse experienced ups and downs throughout the season that typically represents a record around .500.
This year, it played out much differently despite arriving at a similar record in the end. In a true tale of two halves, an 11-1 start to the season was followed by nine consecutive losses. So how could such a hot start turn into a disastrous finish? The unbelievable start is just as hard to explain as the downfall that followed.
Syracuse made it clear to begin the campaign that it was ready to make a statement. The Orange had six non conference opponents to start off and dominated, outscoring them by a combined score of 35-6. ACC play began after that and the level of competition increased significantly. The ensuing matches were much closer, but SU kept winning. After back to back 4-3 victories over Boston College and Florida State, Syracuse had its most impressive win of the season against 23rd ranked Miami. After losing the doubles point to begin the dual, the Orange answered right back by taking five of the six singles matches. That included an incredible upset as Zeynep Erman defeated Alexa Noel, the 8th ranked singles player in the country, in straight sets.
Everything was going well at that stage and the ‘Cuse was exceeding expectations. The 9-0 start was the second best start in program history, only behind the 1978-79 season when Syracuse went a perfect 10-0. SU also catapulted up to No. 16 in the ITA rankings, its highest ranking since February 2019. While a minor setback occurred in a hard fought 4-2 defeat to No. 15 Virginia, the Orange bounced back with wins over Coppin St. and Virginia Tech to improve to 11-1.
Following a 12 day gap between matches, Syracuse returned from the break with lackluster performances against Clemson and Georgia Tech. Those losses would spark the beginning of a rough stretch the rest of the way. The Orange went from an unbeatable squad to one that could not find a win in the latter half of March and the entirety of April. SU fell to Duke, North Carolina and NC State, marking five straight losses by a 6-1 scoreline. Things did not get any better after that as Syracuse failed to overcome Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Louisville to close out the regular season. The win for the Cardinals was their first ACC triumph all season, perhaps signifying a low point for the Orange. Fortunes did not change after that as Syracuse dropped its second round dual in the ACC Tournament to Georgia Tech, 4-0.
While it is true that Syracuse plays in the conference with the most ranked teams and had to face some of the top teams in the nation, a nine match losing skid was still surprising considering how great of a start it had. The main culprit for the notable change in results midway through the season was injuries. There is no denying that SU has talent on its roster. That was proven early on in the campaign. However, having just six players on the roster turned out to be very costly.
Once the second half of the season came around, the injuries started to pile up and fatigue played more and more of a factor for such a small team. It eventually got to the point where Syracuse had to play multiple matches down a player. That meant forfeiting a doubles and singles match. In a conference as good as the ACC, that simply isn’t feasible and it showed. Additionally, the players battling through injuries the most, Ines Fonte and Zeynep Erman, were catalysts for the early season success SU experienced.
Syracuse seemed destined for an NCAA Tournament appearance at one point. Those chances have obviously decreased dramatically. SU will find out if its season is officially over when the NCAA Tournament Selection Show takes place on Monday at 6 p.m. Either way, the Orange showed promise early on and the pieces are there to have success going forward in future years. Adding a few more pieces to the equation could go a long way in ensuring that successful seasons from start to finish are on the horizon for a hopeful program.