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In her freshman season last year, Viktoriya Kanapatskaya surpassed expectations. The Belarus native arrived at Syracuse as a practically unknown prospect before finishing the year off with multiple ranked wins, All-Atlantic Coast Conference First Team honors and an All-American team selection, even earning SU’s number one singles spot.
But after just three matches in that position, Kanapatskaya’s sophomore campaign has gotten off to a rocky start. Her record now stands at 1-2 after consecutive defeats to Brown’s Britany Lau and Penn State’s Sofiya Chekhlystova, and she has yet to win a singles match since Syracuse’s season-opener against Army.
“The good news is that she played better than yesterday,” head coach Younes Limam said after Syracuse’s 5-2 loss to Penn State.
Falling to Chekhlystova in straight sets 6-2, 6-2, Kanapatskaya again struggled in singles play, but when matched up with a teammate, she dominated in doubles play.
Kanapatskaya was successful in doubles alongside then-graduate student Natalie Novotna during her freshman year. The duo ranked as high as No. 23 nationally in doubles during the 2020-21 season. But now, even with Novotna gone and fellow sophomore Ines Fonte jumping into the mix, Kanapatskaya remains part of Syracuse’s only undefeated doubles tandem.
With Syracuse’s winning streak snapped at two games in the loss to Penn State, the pairings’ comfortable 6-0 win over Olivia Ryan and Yvonna Zuffova was one of the few bright spots throughout the afternoon. During the match’s only set, Kanapatskaya delivered a variety of strong and fast shots from the back-end of the court.
“Viktoriya and Ines did a tremendous job with their doubles by putting us on the scoreboard,” Limam said. “It was a great performance.”
Kanapatskaya won both her doubles and singles matchups in her first six ACC outings last season. She picked up notable victories against top-35 schools Miami and Virginia, proving that she’s capable of winning against top-level talent. Limam believes that his young star has been unlucky as of late, facing off against two near-flawless performances from her opponents, he said.
The sophomore has shown visible frustration during her losses, too. When committing an unforced error, she tends to let her limbs hang, annoyed that her errant playstyle had cost her a point she probably should’ve won. From there, she’ll take her time walking back to her post, picking at her racket anxiously before settling back down in her receiving stance.
Moving forward, Kanapatskaya’s success will be key for SU, and Limam is hopeful that she can bounce back in future matches. He recognized — and is excited — that Syracuse has time to regroup and refocus before a home game against Cornell on Sunday.
“She knows that she’s not where she needs to be, but the good news is that we have a great week of practice ahead of us before we get ready to play,” Limam said.
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