Tennis

Gabriela Knutson defeats No. 14 Sinead Lohan, leads SU over No. 42 Miami, 4-3

Codie Yan | Staff Photographer

Gabriela Knutson smacks a forehand in recent game action. The SU sophomore beat the No. 14-ranked singles player on Sunday afternoon in a Syracuse win.

Gabriela Knutson was totally unaware that she had beaten the No. 14 player in the country, Sinead Lohan.

“No way,” Knutson said.

Yet Knutson consistently outperformed her opponent in nearly every facet on Sunday, upsetting Miami’s top-ranked player in straight sets in second singles, 6-4, 6-2. Knutson’s upset set the tone for her team’s bigger triumph, as Syracuse (7-10, 4-6 Atlantic Coast) beat No. 42 Miami (6-10, 4-6), 4-3, ending a two-game slide.

Knutson won her doubles match, but she did not initially carry that momentum into singles. She quickly fell behind, 3-0. Lohan covered every inch of her baseline, and early on it seemed that the No. 14 player would reach every ball. In long rallies full of grunts and fast-pounding feet, Lohan jumped out in front.

Knutson had twisted her left knee on Friday, an injury that hindered her ability against North Carolina State. But she didn’t seem to be restricted by it. She and head coach Younes Limam said she had worked hard on treatment since it occurred.

The unusualness of Lohan’s shots baffled Knutson, both in doubles and then early on in singles play.

“Her balls were kind of strange,” Knutson said. “Had a weird spin on them. It took me time in the singles to get used to it. … She was kind of giving me a new look.”`

Once Knutson adjusted, she turned the match around. The first set went to 3-4 on a Knutson ace that Lohan just glanced at as it flew by. Then, before making it 4-4, a long rally ensued. Neither player made clean contact — they could barely reach the ball. Both were practically sprawling across the court. Knutson extended fully, with both hands on her racket, to backhand a ball down Lohan’s right sideline. It landed on the line past Lohan, knotting the score, 4-4.

On the last point of the first set, as Lohan reached for a ball to her forehand side, she instead pulled up lame, appearing to have pulled a muscle in her left leg. From that point on, she was not as mobile. The balls she reached early in the first set were just out of reach. Knutson looked invigorated and more mobile than her highly ranked opponent.

“I had to have time to adjust,” Knutson said. “When I did, I really think I pulled it through.”

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Codie Yan | Staff Photographer

Knutson came out in the second set full of power behind her shots. But it was a point that showed defense that really put Lohan away.

Leading 4-1 in the second set, Knutson was on the back foot. Three times in a row, she hit shots that floated up towards the net for Lohan to smash away. Thrice Knutson handled Lohan’s smashes, with her third return getting Lohan a bit out of position. When a more attackable shot came over, Knutson didn’t waste it. She backhanded it, again down Lohan’s right sideline. No doubt that the shot was in. No doubt that Knutson’s victory was readily forthcoming.

When Lohan hit a ball out to end the match and give the victory to Knutson, all SU’s second singles player could do was smile. Barely a fist pump, nary a noise. Just a smile.

The highest ranked player, No. 14 Lohan, to step into Drumlins Country Club this season had lost. Knutson’s major upset proved to be crucial to both herself and her team in the one-point victory.

“It boosts our confidence a lot,” Knutson said. “We know we can beat Miami. What’s stopping us from beating Duke next weekend, or Wake Forest?”

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