TENNIS : Despite drop to No. 3 singles spot, Harman embraces new role with SU
Emily Harman is used to playing at the No. 1 singles spot. The junior captain on the Syracuse tennis team has spent time in that top position in each of her first two seasons.
This year, however, head coach Luke Jensen decided to make a change.
‘It doesn’t really matter what position I’m playing,’ Harman said, ‘as long as I’m playing for the win for the team.’
This time around, Harman finds herself in the No. 3 spot on Syracuse. She’s posted a 2-1 record in her new position and doesn’t view the change as a negative one. Instead, Harman knows the No. 3 spot is just as important to contributing to a Syracuse win. She can still score points for her team.
When she did hold that No. 1 spot over the past two years, Harman had considerable success. She posted a 12-8 record at the position during her freshman year and a 5-3 mark last season.
Harman fell from her top position in 2011 but not for a lack of ability. Credit Jensen and his staff members for incredible recruiting. Harman herself acknowledges just how deep this Syracuse team is.
‘It’s deep,’ she said. ‘(We are a) devastating team for anyone that steps in front of us.’
While some players could have viewed the change in a negative way, Jensen knew the transition for Harman would be a smooth one. Harman won two of her three opening weekend matches, picking up wins against Navy and Georgetown, while falling to Maryland’s No. 3 singles player.
Her ability to meet every challenge she faces is as unmistakable as her leadership both on the courts and in the locker room.
‘Isn’t that what you want from your captain?’ Jensen said. ‘She’s a captain who’s gonna step up. … She’s a born leader.’
Jensen and his staff members have brought in talented players in each of the past two years. Last season, SU added C.C. Sardinha, who was a ‘blue-chip’ recruit, in the words of Jensen. Sardinha transferred to Oklahoma State after last season. This year, freshman Maddie Kobelt already has control of the No. 2 singles spot.
In addition to that singles spot, Kobelt pairs with Harman in doubles play. In Jensen’s mind, this is a situation in which Harman can use her experience to guide the young freshman.
‘Kobelt is a very talented but young tennis player — very raw,’ Jensen said. ‘She needs that guidance.
‘It’s the perfect mentorship. Harman’s played so many big matches for us, so she can tell Kobelt where to go with certain shots and how to relax in certain situations.’
Kobelt appreciates the knowledge and training she’s picked up from her captain. Even more so, she appreciates the encouragement her doubles partner and other two captains (Simone Kalhorn and Christina Tan) have provided for the freshman group as a whole.
‘Captains Emily, Simone, Christina have all stepped up and supported us,’ Kobelt said.
Despite the time Kobelt and Harman have spent together, the pair struggled in its opening weekend. They posted a 1-2 record from the No. 1 doubles spot. One of those losses, though, was a grueling 8-7 defeat in a tiebreaker to Georgetown. Though a good match from a leadership point of view, chemistry on the court will take time.
Harman herself recognizes what her coaching staff is doing, and they have the best chance to make runs in the Big East and NCAA tournaments with these younger players. A program-best 20-3 record in the regular season a year ago is a mark everyone feels could be surpassed this season.
‘As a team, we have all stepped it up (this season),’ Kobelt said. ‘We are determined to make our record even better than last season.’
And so with overall team success, any lingering feelings of disappointment on the part of Harman will be erased. She doesn’t resent her drop in the lineup in the least. In fact, it makes her embrace her role as a leader and a mentor even more.
In fact, if Jensen had his way, every one of his players would train and compete with the same fiery attitude as Harman’s.
‘I wish Harman could be on every court,’ Jensen said, ‘because she really takes every match over.’
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