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Friday, Feb 16, 2018 at 10:51 pm

SU Defeats Boston College 5-2 For First ACC Win

By Gill Gross

Dina Hegab’s eyes opened wide like saucers. She took a high forehand down the line. A sure winner if it landed in play, but it was long. Hegab had two more match points to work with, but the nerves were getting to her. A match win for the Junior would clinch the duel victory for the Orange. Hegab shook out her arms and took a deep breath.

Boston College’s Elene Tsokilauri must have been sure she was winning the next point. Hegab was on the dead run, but somehow dug out a lunging backhand pass, igniting what Hegab called, “the loudest crowd at Drumlins” she could remember. That match put SU up 4-1; the Orange would go on to win it 5-2. It was Syracuse’s first ACC win of the year in its first ACC home match of the year. SU is yet to lose at Drumlins Country Club and would have a flawless record overall if not for a tight 4-3 loss at the University of Virginia.

One of the major questions coming into the match was the status of the highest ranked player in Syracuse Tennis history, Gabriela Knutson. The Junior missed last week’s match against UConn due to a shoulder issue. Knutson was back in full force on Friday, going 2-0. After a slow start, No. 14 Knutson/Ramirez rallied for a 6-4 doubles win. Miranda Ramirez played a sensational return game at 4-4 to get the break. Knutson shut the door with some big serving at 5-4.

That got the ball rolling for Syracuse, who dropped doubles for the first time all season in its last match against UConn. Anna Shkudun and Sofya Golubovskya also found a groove late in the set. The pair was down 3-1 before rallying for a 6-4 win.

“They did a tremendous job of playing aggressive,” Coach Younes Limam said, “not panicking when things weren’t going our way.”

Hegab/Mitchell at third doubles were pulled after Syracuse clinched the doubles point. The pair was up 4-3, which is more impressive considering BC nestled their best player, Asiya Dair, at third doubles.

Head Coach Younes Limam made an interesting lineup decision in the singles. The 4th year coach had been consistently using Miranda Ramirez above Sofya Golubovskya in the lineup, but against BC, Limam bumped Golubovskya up to 2nd singles and swapped Ramirez down to 3rd.

“Sometimes (it’s) matchups,” Limam Said, “Just trying to scout our opponents and try to figure out what is the best matchup for us. If we feel we have a little bit of an advantage we go ahead and do that.”

Golubovskya’s groundstrokes tend to be flat and therefore stay low. This made life difficult for Kylie Wilcox for Boston College, who towers over six feet tall and has to bend down low to absorb Golubovskya’s pace. When asked if this was a factor, Limam confirmed. Golubovskya won the match 6-1, 6-7, 6-3. The Russian will likely be considered for a spot in the top 150 in the updated ITA singles rankings.

One spot over, Miranda Ramirez was bullying her opponent. A clear talent gap existed between Ramirez and Natasha Irani of BC. Irani couldn’t muster a single game. Ramirez’s doubles partner had to sweat on the singles court, but Knutson defeated Dair, 6-4, 6-1.

That opened the door for Dina Hegab to close out the duel. With Golubovskya and Anna Shkudun in third sets on the remaining courts, there was no telling what could happen if Hegab didn’t manage to close out the match.

“Closing the match is never ever easy,” Hegab said, “So I was trying to be aggressive but at the same time not rush. I was trying to breath and stay relaxed. And I finished it.”