Anna Shkudun and Syracuse take down St. John’s to improve to 6-0

first_imgAnna Shkudun knelt slightly, released the ball from her grasp and loaded before the match’s final point. Another powerful serve. Another ace. Another victory.Shkudun met St. John’s junior Natallia Vavulina at the net and shook hands. But then they embraced one another, smiling, hugging and kissing. Shkudun, a native of Ukraine, and Vavulina, from Belarus, had met “a lot of times,” before International Tennis Federation tournaments, Shkudun said.But despite being happy to see Vavulina again, Shkudun said she had to stay focused.“When you’re on the court, you’re just fighting,” Shkudun said. “Doesn’t matter who’s your opponent, you’re on the court, you have tennis to play.”Shkudun, SU’s No. 1 singles player, defeated Vavulina, 7-5, 6-4, and helped lead Syracuse to a 5-0 win over St. John’s on Sunday at Drumlins Country Club in a match it controlled from the start. Just 27 minutes in, the Orange captured its first doubles win. Four singles victories later, SU sealed the win. Syracuse’s 6-0 start to the season is its best since 2009.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter what Shkudun called a “disappointing” loss in doubles play, she brought more vigor to her match with Vavulina. During one stretch in the second set, Shkudun turned in one vicious serve after another, forcing Vavulina to frenetically run from side to side, just to keep up. In the same set, Vavulina responded to a trio of Shkudun aces with a laugh, as if there was nothing she could do.“You cannot stop and just wait for the mistakes,” Shkudun said. “You have to do more and more to close the match and to feel more and more confidence.”Entering Sunday’s match, the Red Storm had won three of its last four matches. Less than 10 months ago, St. John’s advanced to the Big East final and, with much of last year’s team back this time around, brought an experienced team.But after helping Syracuse to its doubles victory, Valeria Salazar defeated Anna Morozova in her singles match, 6-2, 6-4, to put the Orange up 2-0. Libi Mesh followed with a 7-6 tiebreak win and 6-4 win to make it 3-0.Nicole Mitchell, normally a doubles-only player, was told she’d be playing for Gabriela Knutson because Knutson was sick. Unexpectedly called upon to fill a gap, Mitchell delivered a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 win.“I felt like I just wanted to go win for her because she wasn’t able to play,” Mitchell said. “It felt great out there.”Syracuse was able to pull away from St. John’s on Sunday. But it all started with Shkudun, whose dominant serve overpowered Vavulina, a player she was already familiar with.“It was funny to see her,” she said. Comments Published on February 14, 2016 at 8:28 pm Contact Matthew: | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more