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Friday, Mar 29, 2019 at 10:39 pm

Syracuse Tennis Falls to No. 2 North Carolina

By Brad Klein

Tennis Beat Reporter

No. 28 Syracuse (11-7, 4-5 Atlantic Coast) woke up Friday morning with tennis powerhouse No. 2 North Carolina (21-1, 9-0) on the schedule. For most teams this season, UNC has been a death sentence written in Carolina blue. Today was no different for the Orange. Syracuse lost 5-2, but the entire duel really came down to a few key points on each court.

“When it was very close in the score, they played much more aggressive, even better than the whole match, which I give credit to them,” said Dina Hegab. “I think it had to come from us and play a little bit more aggressive in the tiebreak.”

On face value, a loss to the Tar Heels is nothing to be ashamed of. Syracuse Head Coach Younes Limam says that there are many positives to be taken from the loss.

“I think we competed extremely hard. Our attitude was very good from start to finish. We had a few chances to kind of get that momentum back in some situations during the match,” Limam said. “Credit to them. They managed adversity very well when it mattered the most.”

The duel took its form when Syracuse lost the doubles point in a heartbreaker. Miranda Ramirez and Gabriela Knutson lost their doubles set before Sonya Trescheva and Sofya Golubovskaya evened it up. All eyes were on Dina Hegab and Guzal Yusupova, with Syracuse desperately trying to take the first step towards what would have been the biggest win in program history. The duo felt short in a tiebreak.

But the Orange are not the type of team to quiver after a setback. They shook off the doubles disappointment and played pretty well to start the singles matches. Maria Tritou was down 3-0 in the first frame, but went on to win six straight games to take the set. Senior leaders Dina Hegab and Gabriela Knutson also won their first sets.

“Coach always tells us that the doubles is only 15 percent of the match,” Knutson said.

But from there, the Tar Heels reminded the Orange why they are ranked second in the country. UNC ran out a singles lineup with four ranked players, which was just too much for SU to handle. No. 9 Sara Daavettila dominated Sofya Golubovskaya 6-1, 6-2. No. 90 Miranda Ramirez suffered the same fate to No. 3 Alexa Graham on the second singles court. This was a tough test for Ramirez; Graham is the highest ranked player that anyone on Syracuse has faced on the first singles court this year.

Dina Hegab opened the scoring for Syracuse with a straight set victory on the sixth singles court. However, UNC tightened their grip on SU with the win over Sonya Trescheva on the fifth singles court. Trescheva returned from her ankle injury a few weeks ago, but Limam eased her back into the lineup starting with doubles. Including the loss against the Tar Heels, she is now 0-2 since her return to singles.

The Trescheva match was the clincher for North Carolina, but Tritou and Knutson finished their singles matches anyway. Tritou was a game-time decision for the fourth singles court against No. 25 Cameron Morra. She forced the match to three sets, but Morra swept Tritou in the third frame.

Knutson had plenty of success though. She defeated No. 5 Makenna Jones 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. This is her fourth consecutive singles victory, all against ranked opponents. But ironically, Knutson says she couldn’t have gone on this streak if she was aware of the rankings.

“I don’t want to know anything. I just get in my own head. That’s why I don’t look at the rankings. I’m happy if I beat someone ranked after the fact,” Knutson said.

Knutson and the Orange will face No. 10 North Carolina State on Sunday at 11 a.m.

bwklein@syr.edu | @BradKlein15