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With record-breaking season over, Jensen points to scheduling strife as hindrance to further growth

September 17, 2020

first_img Comments After the most successful season in program history, Syracuse tennis head coach Luke Jensen looks at his schedule and sees a school-record 20 victories. But looking at that schedule, there’s at least one thing Jensen doesn’t see, something that troubles him.‘No matter how hard you try to schedule, the best teams in our own conference won’t play us,’ Jensen said.One of the teams Jensen doesn’t see is Notre Dame, a team in his own conference. Yet, in Jensen’s four years as head coach, he has faced Notre Dame only twice — and one of those matches was three weeks ago in the Big East tournament.The Fighting Irish is not alone. Teams that consistently rank at the top of the conference have consistently turned down the opportunity to schedule the Orange. This year South Florida (No. 2 Big East) turned down SU’s challenge to a rematch after beating Syracuse 6-1 last year. DePaul, ranked third in the conference this year, declined offers to play the past two seasons.Without the opportunity to face the more competitive names in the Big East and in other conferences, the Orange finished off the most successful season in history with a disappointing loss in the Big East tournament.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘If you look at the schedules, we play more Big East opponents than anyone else in the conference,’ Jensen said. We have every year. We have the best record in the conference. Every year. So we’ll play anyone, anywhere. What’s tough is the other side, basically, in my opinion, is threatened.’On top of the 19 wins, SU was undefeated at home and ranked fourth in the Big East heading into the tournament after earning the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds, respectively, in 2008 and 2009.Yet the Orange faced only two nationally ranked teams, Michigan (then No. 16) and Princeton (then No. 63), during the season.Despite the losses, the matches against these teams improved SU’s play and confidence.‘We really played against Princeton and Michigan,’ junior Christina Tan said. ‘I mean, we lost those matches, but we got exposed to a couple of the higher-ranked teams in the country and we realized that we can hang with those girls. So I think that helped us get motivated a little more.’Though the confidence was there, SU may have suffered in the Big East because it was not able to face any of the top three seeds until the tournament. The team was forced to go blind into a tournament in which all three of those teams were in the Top 25 in the national rankings.When the Orange faced top-seeded Notre Dame in the semifinals of the conference tournament, only two singles players had competed against the school before. Tan was one of them. Instead of having a tailored game plan, SU had to focus on simply attempting to put forth a good effort.In preparation for the tournament, SU’s No. 1 seed CC Sardinha anticipated working on the things the team stressed all year. But she knew that there was no specific plan to bring down the three Big East giants.‘We’ll just work on certain things, certain key points like doubles points and serve and volleying,’ Sardinha said. ‘And being more aggressive from the baseline during singles.’The lack of experience against these teams proved to be a deciding factor, as Notre Dame won the semifinal match 4-0.Jensen is an optimistic man, as he predicted his team would win the national title this year and has done the same for next year. But he gets frustrated with the situation. In the loss to Notre Dame, he finds fault not in his players but in the system.‘I think the biggest thing isn’t anything the girls did wrong, anything I did wrong,’ he said. ‘If you only get three looks at those guys all year, it’s tough because you want to see that kind of competition and you want to beat that.’Jensen hopes that his team’s record-breaking season has not gone unnoticed in the college tennis community. No longer does he want to face only two nationally ranked teams a season.Jensen called DePaul, Notre Dame and South Florida but has not yet been able to schedule matches against them for next year, so he was forced to look elsewhere to validate his confidence.‘Next year we’ve got USC (Southern California), which is a Top 10 team,’ Jensen said. ‘I want to say we have four or five nationally ranked teams, so it’s game on. We’ve got to get better.’[email protected] Published on May 11, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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