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Sunday, Apr 01, 2018 at 5:25 pm

SU Tennis Conquers Best Win in Program History Over No. 3 Georgia Tech

By Gill Gross

Tennis Beat Reporter

Gabriela Knutson had already come back from down a break in the third set. At 4-4 deuce, she was being asked to come from behind once again.

The biggest win in program history was on the line. No. 37 Syracuse (14-3, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) was one match away from clinching a duel victory over No. 3 Georgia Tech (14-4, 6-2).

After having no choice but to throw up a defensive-slice backhand lob, Knutson was on the ropes. As Paige Hourigan stepped into a midcourt forehand, Knutson ranged to her left, anticipating Hourigan’s attack. She guessed correctly. The junior hit a two-handed backhand back to the center of the court. Hourigan, ill-prepared for such a strong reply, sailed her next forehand long. Knutson gave Syracuse its match-clinching fourth win to take down the Yellow Jackets. Knutson threw her arms up in celebration as she was mobbed by her teammates at the net.

“I teared up. It was an amazing feeling,” Knutson said. “It makes everything I do worthwhile. It makes not sleeping, traveling, waking up at 6 a.m. to go to practice, it makes it all worthwhile when you feel that support from your teammates and you win the match.”

That was only one half of an impressive afternoon by Knutson, though. Knutson and her doubles partner Miranda Ramirez picked up their biggest doubles win of their season against the No. 1 ranked Hourigan/Jones, 6-2. No. 37 Knutson/Ramirez have rattled off three straight victories on the heels of a four-match skid.

After Sofya Golubovskya/Anna Shkudun dropped their match 6-3, the doubles point rested in the hands of Dina Hegab/Masha Tritou.

“When we stepped on the court, we knew this match was going to be close,” Hegab said, “We knew doubles will probably matter. We knew it might be a 4-3 match.”

They handled it by breaking Renaud/Otsuka at 5-5 and serving out a 7-5 victory to clinch the doubles point for SU. The point turned out to be essential in the upset victory.

Hegab and Tritou both rode momentum into singles, turning in the most dominant performances for the Orange in singles respectively. Hegab improved to 9-0 in singles at Drumlins with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Nadia Gizdova. Tritou was inserted into the singles lineup this weekend in a slot previously held by Libi Mesh. Syracuse head coach Younes Limam was rewarded for the change on Sunday as Tritou cruised to a 6-2, 6-4 victory. The wins at fifth and sixth singles pulled SU within one point of the duel. That left Golubovskya, Shkudun and Knutson on court for SU to win the desired fourth point.

Golubovskya dug herself out of a hole in the first set only to lose her serve at 4-5. Then in the second, the Russian came from behind again. She broke at 5-5 for a chance to serve to force a third set. But Golubovskya struggled with her second serve throughout the match, and Kenya Jones got the break back to force a tiebreak. In the breaker, Golubovskya’s normally steady backhand failed her, and Jones took it 7-5.

It didn’t come down to Shkudun who played a marathon match on Court One. Knutson clinched the match in front of the watchful Drumlins crowd. The No. 8 player in the country dropped seven-straight games between the end of the first and beginning of the second sets, but from there Knutson took charge, winning 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Shkudun went on to lose 7-5, 7-6 (8-6). But the upset was already complete.

“We didn’t go into the match expecting (just) to play a good match,” Limam said, “We went in expecting to win.”