The Orange Are in Stride, but Major Speed Bumps are Still Down the Road
By Cameron Ezeir
CitrusTV Tennis Beat Reporter
Location, injuries, and unwarranted losses have yet to phase the Syracuse Orange, who sport a 4-0 to start the season. After dominating two matches in Richmond, Virginia, SU returned home and took care of two straight. This team is special to say the least. But two factors have been put aside thus far, strength of schedule and conference play.
On a positive note, the Orange are following a successful formula: rely on the best players to make plays, stay confident in the freshman, and persevere when trailing. Senior Miranda Ramirez has yet to lose in either singles or doubles this season. SU’s three freshman, Polina Kozyreva, Kim Hansen and Zeynep Erman have won all of their singles matches, including a couple in which their opponent retired. Finally, Syracuse overcame a doubles point deficit to Cornell.
Sticking to their strengths is another theme surrounding this year’s Orange squad as well. Kim Hansen has dominated her opponents on serve, while Miranda Ramirez utilizes her accurate ball placement to her advantage. There are many compliments that Coach Younes Limam’s team can attribute to their perfect start to the season, however, the season does not end with a four-game stint.
Focusing on the good often filters out the bad, but with an ample amount of expectations on this 2020 season, one must take into account all the variables.
So far, Syracuse crushed Richmond, VCU, Cornell and Boston University. The Richmond Spiders haven’t had a winning season since 2016 and lost twice to the only ranked opponent they played in that span: SU’s fellow ACC rival, Virginia. The Rams of VCU play in the Atlantic-10 conference and have not won more than one match in an entire duel against a ranked opponent ever. Safe to say that these two road wins were almost a guarantee barring extraneous circumstances. There is not even one player in the Atlantic-10 conference that ranks in the top 100 in singles, according to the ITA, compared to the 25 top 100 players in singles in the ACC.
Transitioning to Drumlins, the Cornell Big Red have yet to win a duel this year and are a combined 13-34 since the 2018 season. While Boston University has won one match in program history within a duel against a team ranked in the top 40. EVER.
Although these might seem like useless stats, these are the resumes of SU’s first four opponents this season. Nothing impressive at all, which is why any spectator or analyst watching this year’s Orange team needs to take a step back before referring to this start as one of the best in program history.
Another variable that will impact SU’s 2020 team is ACC play. The Atlantic Coast Conference stouts SEVEN ranked teams this season. This includes No. 2 North Carolina, No. 5 Duke, No. 8 NC State, No. 16 Florida State, No. 23 Miami and No. 24 Wake Forest. To say the least, the ACC is the best conference in women’s tennis. So as good as 4-0 sounds right now, the bulk of SU’s schedule has yet to hit the Orange this season. With hefty challenges looming large, Syracuse will need to follow their gameplan, in order to continue their perfect season and rewrite past ACC results.
Last year, the Orange were 2-9 against ranked opponents, including 5-9 in conference play. The previous two years, SU was a combined 13-15 in ACC play and 7-11 against ranked teams. Their recent results against more challenging opponents have not been in their favor, which is why the perfect season celebrations should be put on hold. The No, 2 ranked North Carolina alone, who host Syracuse on March 22nd, have five singles players in the top 100. That does not even account for the four Duke Blue Devils and three NC State Wolfback singles players that are ranked in the top 100, according to the ITA, as well.
These obstacles are in the way of every ACC team that is on the outside looking in, but for Syracuse, sitting at a perfect 4-0, what the future holds is more eye-opening, prompted by the narrative. The Orange have four very winnable duels at home in the next couple of weeks before conference play, which could amount to SU’s best start to the season. They next welcome St. Johns to Drumlins, tomorrow at 2 p.m., followed by matchups with Boston College, Buffalo and Columbia. But future roadblocks (a.k.a. higher ranked teams) also have a chance to send Syracuse down a vertical spiral.
Bottom line, SU looks very good to start the season. In reality, slow the brakes.
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