The Team That Never Gives Up

Thursday, Feb 20, 2020 at 10:09 am by Sports Editor

By Cameron Ezeir

CitrusTV Tennis Beat Reporter

Syracuse Women’s Tennis is walking a tightrope at the moment, but have yet to stumble. Sitting at 6-0, SU’s hot start is their best since 2016 when they staved off seven straight. The new decade has been full of injuries, surprising individual losses and comeback wins, which has phased everyone except the seven players suited up for Syracuse.

On their opening road trip, the Orange dominated Richmond but ran into a bit of early trouble against VCU. Dropping the first doubles set, SU regained momentum with two consecutive doubles wins and obtaining the doubles point. However, singles play was far from a walk in the park. Miranda Ramirez and Polina Kozyreva eked out three-set wins, while Sofya Golubovskaya lost a three-set heartbreaker after dominating the first set, 6-2. Those close results were far from the nail biters experienced by the Orange at Drumlins. 

Returning home with a 2-0 record also carried some baggage. Sofya Golubovskaya suffered a shoulder injury, either in practice or in their duel against the Rams. With an already small roster, Golubovskaya was sidelined with no timetable to when she would return. This left Syracuse with only 6 players to send out on gameday. Quick reminder: six players is the minimum amount that one team needs to compete in any duel at the collegiate level. So, early on, the ‘Cuse was treading on thin ice as it took the long and dreary ride back to Central New York.

With two wins in the book and six players on hand, Syracuse hosted Cornell, a team they hadn’t lost to in over a decade. Moments after first serve, the Big Red exposed the Orange in doubles. Kim Hansen and Sonya Treshcheva, ranked 48th in the country for their doubles play in the fall, dropped in a tiebreak to Cornell’s number one team. With the most reliable doubles team, who went 6-1 in fall play, for SU dropping their first set of the season, panic ensued. Freshman Polina Kozyreva and Zeynep Erman teamed up and fell, 2-6. 

This was the first time that Syracuse was dealing with adversity in the early going, trailing 1-0. Last year, the Orange finished 4-13 when losing the doubles point, so how did SU respond? It was to the tune of five consecutive straight set singles victories in singles play. Yet another step on the tightrope, but without fault. Next up on the Cuse’s agenda were the Boston University Terriers.

This was the first time in a while that these two programs hit the courts and the Orange made sure that last week’s sputtering performance was in the rear view mirror. SU won every match by straight sets, except a 1-6, 3-6 loss at the doubles one spot courtesy of 64th ranked Guzal Yusupova. They also snatched the doubles point with ease. Nonetheless, their next duel was not as forgiving.

An old Big East rival in the St. John’s Red Storm strolled into a Syracuse blizzard and wreaked havoc early. The adjustment of putting Zeynep Erman with Kim Hansen together was successful against BU, but did not carry over from Sunday to Friday. The duo looked discombobulated in a 6-1 defeat and although it might be hard to believe, bad news escalated. Polina Kozyreva, with her and Sonya Treshcheva trailing 5-4, fell to the floor in agonizing pain. She grimaced while grabbing at her left ankle. After being forced to pull out of her match, Kozyreva was sidelined leading to another doubles point loss. 

In addition, Golubovskaya’s injury meant that SU had no substitutes to fill in for Kozyreva in singles. Now trailing 2-0, the Orange needed to focus on controlling momentum in singles play to have any chance at starting 5-0 on the season. However, Yusupova continued to struggle, dropping her match (1-6, 1-6) and placing Syracuse in a 3-0 hole. All hope seemed lost. A perfect season was in the balance and solely up to Ramirez, Hansen, Erman and Treshcheva.

Needing 4 straight wins, Ramirez, Hansen and Erman picked up straight set wins and knotted the duel at 3 apiece. Against all odds, SU was right back in the hunt for a 5-0 record to start the season. The sophomore heard her teammates’ prayer and delivered in the clutch. A three-set thriller (6-2, 2-6, 6-3) was capped off by a Sonya Treshcheva forehand volley. The Orange were 5-0 at this point, but with a big issue on their hands: they only had 5 healthy players.

With about a week off, SU hit Drumlins for the fourth straight time in a span of two weeks. The answer to SU’s health issues was solved: Sofya Golubovskaya returned. Also, ACC play was underway. The Orange hosted Boston College and felt the heat early. For the third time this season, the Cuse dropped the doubles point and had to work from behind. Sitting at 2-0 when losing the doubles point, SU did not fret and rather, followed the lead of Zeynep Erman and Miranda Ramirez — two players that had yet to lose a singles match — to two wins. After Golubovskaya lost and Kim Hansen continued her winning ways, Treshcheva dropped a close tiebreaker in the third set. The overall score was 3-3.

The number one singles spot was all that was holding SU back from a 6-0 start and their first ACC win of the year. In the slot was Guzal Yusupova. A senior that had lost her last two singles matches. In the third set of her match against BC’s #1 singles player, Yufei Long, the tightrope seemed to thin out. She trailed 5-2 in the third set after losing the first and winning the second and needed a miracle to escape a probable defeat. The second-year transfer from Seattle found that miracle, rattling off five consecutive games and extending SU’s record to 6-0 on the season.

Although the journey has been everything but easy, the Orange have concurred every challenge and overcome all adversity; and in response, are the 25th ranked team in the country. SU was rewarded this spot yesterday by the ITA in their recent top 50 rankings.

Syracuse looks to tie their best start in program history against Columbia at 3 tomorrow. They will also face their first ranked opponent on Sunday in No. 10 Duke. What’s up in the air is which SU team will show up on Friday; whether they will take care of business as a top 25 team or continue to walk the tightrope. | @EzeirCameron