Get the latest Syracuse news delivered right to your inbox.
Subscribe to our sports newsletter here.
Last season, Syracuse finished 8-12 and were inconsistent throughout the spring. The Orange started off with early wins against Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Boston College but couldn’t find their stride toward the latter half of the season, ultimately falling to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
So far in 2022, Syracuse has only lost to Penn State in its first seven matches and will start Atlantic Coast Conference play in just two days as the Orange will travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, to take on Virginia Tech at the end of the week. SU initially planned to open its ACC campaign by hosting Boston College at Drumlins Country Club this past Saturday, but the match was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols in the Eagles’ program.
Led by sophomore Viktoriya Kanapatskaya, an All-ACC First Team honoree, the Orange have a balance of returning veterans and newcomers this season. Kanapatskaya began last year ranked the 121st women’s collegiate tennis player. By the end of the season, she rose all the way to 20th.
After three surprise losses early this year, Kanapatskaya has yet to lose in the Orange’s last four games. Most recently against Niagara, Kanapatskaya didn’t drop a game in a straight-set win against her singles opponent, Coral Rodriguez. In most of Syracuse’s matchups this year, head coach Younes Limam has given Kanapatskaya the No. 1 matchup in both the singles and doubles matches, a responsibility the sophomore has easily handled early on this season.
Along with Kanapatskaya, junior Polina Kozyreva and senior Sofya Treshcheva have emerged as one of Syracuse’s top doubles pairs in their second year playing together. Last season, the duo excelled, both in doubles play and individually. Treshcheva picked up a singles win over ranked ACC rival Virginia, while Kozyreva handled her own in an impressive singles victory over Georgia Tech. This season, Kozyreva has recorded the best start of her collegiate career as she is yet to lose any of her singles matches, recording a perfect 7-0 record. Syracuse should expect to see Kozyreva and Kanapatskaya begin to share the No. 1 doubles spot as ACC play goes on.
Maya Goosmann | Digital Design Director
Treshcheva has also influenced Syracuse’s rotation, despite a shoulder injury. Against Niagara, Treshcheva was notably frustrated with her inability to produce a powerful serve. After winning her doubles matchup, Limam and the rest of the coaching staff decided it would be best if she sat out her singles competition to recover ahead of ACC play.
But the biggest surprise this season has been freshman tandem Shiori Ito and Miyuka Kimoto. Both from Japan, the pair were under-18 standouts in representing their hometowns, even facing off against each other during nationwide tournaments. Now, the two have set their rivalry aside to help Syracuse in both singles and doubles.
“They complement each other,” Limam said. “Miyuka is very aggressive on the net and puts a lot of pressure on the returners, and Shiori kind of sets her up, and Miyuka is the finisher,” Limam said.
Ito has been impressive from the jump, including helping Syracuse to a come-from-behind win against Penn State’s Alina Lebedeva. Ito also had a three-set victory over Buffalo’s Mariana Carvajal Torres and has a perfect 7-0 singles record.
Kimoto’s record is similar to Ito’s. Like her counterpart, Kimoto has earned results and has gained Limam’s trust, who has occasionally placed her in the No. 1 doubles spot.
“She’s been playing better and better, and obviously she’s winning a lot of matches, so that’s helping her confidence,” Limam said.
The ACC features some of the best teams in the country. Six teams rank in the top 25 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll. North Carolina, who the Orange face on March 18, hold the top spot.
Limam will likely switch around Syracuse lineups as he has in the past, but Kanapatskaya will most likely be at the forefront of most of Syracuse’s matches.
Going into their showdown with the Hokies, the Orange should start ACC playoff on a winning note, and if similar results occur, they could secure an NCAA Tournament berth as well.
“We know what to expect from our conference; it’s the best conference in the country,” Limam said. “It’ll be a big challenge for us.”
The post Inside Syracuse’s hot start to the season for the team and individual players appeared first on The Daily Orange.