TENNIS : Orange’s increased intensity pays off with current winning streak

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Jacob: jmklinge@syr.edu | @Jacob_Klinger_ After Syracuse was blown out in its first two matches, Luke Jensen saw the inexperience of his players hold them back. The Orange struggled to execute on the court and mismanaged finer points in the losses.So the Syracuse coach put an extra emphasis on cleaning up the mistakes and fine-tuning his players’ games.‘You don’t want to lose their confidence and lose their ear, but you just got to point out that the little details and the little specifics are the determining factors sometimes in just winning and losing matches,’ Jensen said.Rustiness and inexperience plagued the Orange (2-2, 1-1 Big East) against South Florida and Texas Christian, but for a team with only two upperclassmen, the problems are somewhat expected. Rookie mistakes, though, did produce some teachable moments for the coaching staff. The season-opening losses caused an increase in intensity in practice, eventually bringing the Orange two blowout wins of its own. Through the process, players have pushed one another, and Jensen feels his team has responded to his coaching.After opening its season with a pair of deflating losses, Syracuse has stormed through two dominating performances of its own. The Orange earned two 7-0 wins over St. John’s and Buffalo. With his team winless, Jensen said Syracuse became hungrier for success.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘This is the first time we’ve ever blanked out those two teams,’ Jensen said. ‘… You get their attention. They don’t like losing. It’s a bad taste in their mouth.’Earlier in the season, the team’s lack of experience was evident in the players’ little mistakes off the court. One player forgot her shoes while others have been slightly late for practice and the team van. Yet Jensen sees these mistakes as a chance to emphasize the team’s need to control the simple things.Though the coaching staff strictly emphasizes discipline, managing a young team is a balancing act.Senior Emily Harman chalked the opening losses up to underperforming but thinks the team’s early struggles have helped it move forward. Though Harman noted little change in the structure of practices, the defeats still affected the team.‘We push ourselves even more than we did before because obviously that wasn’t good enough,’ Harman said.Intensity has always been a part of the Orange’s mantra under Jensen, but for the underclassmen, the early losses showed that high expectation for the program.Freshman Amanda Rodgers said Syracuse worked harder after the losses, but they also brought a wake-up call to the rigors of college tennis.‘Now that the five freshmen have two really hard matches under their belt, we can kind of be ready for the next ones coming up,’ Rodgers said.The Orange takes on No. 55 Ohio State on Saturday before visiting Big East opponent Cincinnati on Sunday.Though many factors determine the success of a tennis team, for sophomore Aleah Marrow, the solution was simple. Syracuse fell back into a rhythm after the South Florida and TCU losses. The wins inevitably helped the team’s confidence, too.‘We got off to a slow start in the season, but we won the last two games, and we streamrolled the last two teams,’ Marrow said. ‘… I think we’re just back up to speed with the way we should be playing.’Ultimately, the players have put the two losses behind them and gotten back to work. An unspoken drive to improve has taken over the team, Harman said.Jensen has noticed his players’ new commitment to getting better since the losses.‘They’ve probably been the most intense since I’ve been here in six years,’ Jensen said.Despite the rough start to the season, the team still has its sights set on postseason play. Beating the superior teams on the way to Syracuse’s goal will require a consistent effort.The message came from Jensen, but it extends through the team. And Jensen and his players know bringing that effort will be key to making a run nationally this season.‘That’s always going to be the goal,’ Rodgers said.jmklinge@syr.edu center_img Commentslast_img

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