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Gabriela Knutson steps up in 1st match, guides Syracuse to win against Columbia

first_img Published on January 29, 2016 at 8:01 pm Contact Chris: cplucey@syr.edu Gabriela Knutson dropped her racket and let out a shriek as she saw her volley go into the net and double match point slip through her fingers near the end of her second-set victory.The freshman won both her singles and doubles matches in her Syracuse (1-0) debut against Columbia (1-2) on Friday afternoon, helping SU get a win against the Lions. Still, in that instant, Knutson was concerned, but not because of her play. She was on the verge of fainting on the court.“I was panicking,” Knutson said of when she returned to the court, after getting sick in the Syracuse locker room. “If I lose this point, I’ll have to play more games and I’ll probably collapse … I gotta get this.”Knutson returned to the baseline and served match point almost immediately. The shot was an ace, right down the midline on the service box. Knutson won 6-3, 6-4.The winning shot against her singles opponent, Star Makarome, punctuated a debut marked by Knutson’s powerful groundstrokes and aggressive style of play.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textDuring her doubles match, Knutson was on the attack. Dina Hegab — another freshman — was her partner in the number two spot of the lineup, and spent the majority of their match on the baseline. Knutson finished points at the service line with her flat, searing forehand.The freshman charged the net so aggressively on one point of the 6-2 win that she didn’t give herself the time to react to her opponents return, and was hit in the stomach by the shot when it came over the net.“I’ve played that way since I was a little girl,” Knutson said. “That’s my game, ripping it. I got hit in the belly once but we won… I got back at her for that.”However, near the end of the second set of her singles match in the third spot against Makarome, Knutson realized that power alone wouldn’t be the difference.Her opponent, weary of trying to match Knutson’s power, began to return with high, arcing shots in order to keep her off balance on the baseline. Knutson adjusted quickly, mixing her blistering pace with spin and drop shots to keep her opponent at bay.“I had to start creating a bit more motion,” Knutson said. “More short balls and spin. In the end, the variety made me better than her.”That brought Knutson to the “return and volley,” which she used to break serve and go up, 5-4, in the second set.On break point, Knutson brought pace on the first hit and then drew Makarome to the service line as she followed her shot. From there, Knutson went up the line for the winning hit.Knutson recalled SU head coach Younes Limam telling her and other players not to be nervous before the game, but that was never a problem for the freshman.And her performance Friday proved to be a source of even more confidence.“She stepped up, as a freshman,” Limam said, “and played some really good tennis.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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