TENNIS : Syracuse looks to maintain intensity during long layoff

first_img Comments Published on March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Kevin: [email protected] As of Monday night, Emily Harman still hadn’t decided whether she was going home for Spring Break.Syracuse has won eight of its last nine matches to position itself for that elusive NCAA tournament bid, and Harman and her teammates don’t want Spring Break to curtail the momentum.‘None of us want to drop the ball,’ Harman said. ‘We’re placing a high priority on this season.’The No. 44 Orange (10-4, 5-1 Big East) has a unique scheduling arrangement this year, with a 19-day break between matches in the middle of the season. The break corresponds with SU’s Spring Break, giving players a chance to go home if they choose to. In years past, head coach Luke Jensen planned Spring Break road trips, but Jensen wasn’t able to find a trip that warranted taking away his players’ break.It ended up working out perfectly. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJensen thinks the break is just what the Orange needs after finishing up an arduous portion of its schedule. Many players have been battling injuries, and the opportunity for some rest will gear everyone up for the late-season NCAA push, Jensen said.‘We’re beat up physically and drained emotionally,’ Jensen said. ‘When we had matches during Spring Break that was so much stress. This will be a nice little pause.’Jensen feels the team has traveled plenty already. The Orange opened the season with trips to South Florida and Texas Christian, and the team played seven of its first eight matches on the road before a four-match homestand. SU has two remaining road matches on the schedule along with the Big East tournament in Tampa, Fla.The extended time away from the court gives the Orange a chance to start early on preparations for its next two opponents, Binghamton and Boston University. Syracuse dropped last year’s match against BU 6-1 and narrowly escaped Binghamton 4-3.This year, Jensen said the extra time off gives the Orange a competitive advantage.‘We have over two weeks to zero in on those two teams,’ Jensen said. ‘They have business to take care of before they think about us. We can focus on them for the rest of the month, and we get to rest our mind and body.’The chance for rest doesn’t mean the team will be off from tennis completely, though. The coaching staff works with each player to devise a training plan that involves practicing, running and workouts.After Syracuse rose quickly up the rankings to as high as No. 39 in the country after a program-defining victory against Yale on Feb. 26, Jensen said he doesn’t need to worry about the players staying disciplined during break.‘We’ve come too far to drop the ball at this point,’ Jensen said. ‘We all want to win, and everyone knows what needs to be done over break to stay focused. I have so much confidence in them.’Freshman Amanda Rodgers is off to a torrid start in singles play, winning 13 of her first 14 matches. She is still looking for the right fit in doubles, though, going 4-5 overall while pairing with four different partners.Rodgers could go home to Florida, but she’s going to stay in Syracuse to work on her doubles play to gear up for the stretch run. She said she feels a mental edge over the opposition at this point, and she doesn’t want to let it slip away.‘Staying at Syracuse, I’m trying to train a lot every day,’ Rodgers said. ‘It’s a time to refocus, rest and get ready for the rest of the season.’Harman refers to the coaching staff as the team’s ‘pilot’ at this point. She said the clear communication and sense of community throughout the team will keep next week’s break from posing any problems.Rodgers said the players know what is expected, and nobody wants to let their teammates down. So when Syracuse returns to the court for its next match in 16 days, it expects to pick up right where it left off on its rise up the rankings.‘The great thing about this team is that we are driven,’ Rodgers said. ‘We all know that we can’t let our guard down.’[email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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