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Comments Alessondra Parra uncomfortably shifted her weight from right to left as she awaited a serve against Louisville in the Big East tournament. When the ball crossed the net, the senior captain took three explosive steps to her left, lunged at it, and came up short grimacing in pain.For head coach Luke Jensen, the painful sight epitomized the Orange’s struggles this season.‘I really thought it was a culmination of the entire season,’ Jensen said. ‘We never really had the entire team on the same page physically, going all the way back to the first day of school. Something was always going on.’Despite high hopes of clinching its first berth in the NCAA tournament, the Orange (14-6) was left on the outside looking in once again. Only six players made the trip to Tampa, Fla., for the Big East tournament, where the Orange was upset by Louisville in the quarterfinals before defeating Rutgers in a consolation match.The banged up and bruised Syracuse team failed to achieve its preseason goal of competing for a national championship, but Jensen’s program also enjoyed its best season in program history. The Orange rose as high as No. 39 in the national rankings and defeated its first ranked opponent, then-No. 25 Yale for a landmark win.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘In retrospect, you can say there’s no doubt (injuries) played a huge part,’ Jensen said. ‘But what we’re trying to build here is a bigger picture. We constantly ask ourselves, are we managing the program in the right direction?‘… Our mindset is always to win it at all, but I’m so proud of the high standards we’ve reached this season.’ The Orange began its season with a match against then-No. 42 South Florida. The Bulls dominated Syracuse 5-2, but Jensen’s team used the match as a learning experience for the rest of the season.He tested his young team with matches against ranked foes Texas Christian University (then-No. 51), Ohio State (then No. 57) and Yale (then-No. 25). In his sixth season coaching the Orange, Jensen said he wanted the program to gain national exposure and the tough schedule helped move SU closer to that goal.The Orange quickly found its confidence, though, winning seven of its next nine matches. Then came the highlight of SU’s memorable regular season – a 4-3 victory over then-No. 25 Yale at Drumlins Tennis Center on Feb. 26.The remarkable victory catapulted the Orange into the national rankings and showed how far the program had come under Jensen.Senior Emily Harman said this year’s group took the program to the next level, moving SU one step closer to making noise nationally.‘We had to beat ranked teams this season, and we definitely brought that to the table,’ Harman said. ‘I think we’re more battle-tested now, because we know how to carry ourselves in a big moment.’Jensen said the program is on the rise and it shows in the rankings and on the recruiting trail. The head coach said elite prospects are starting to heavily consider Syracuse with its move to the Atlantic Coast Conference – the top league in the nation – in the near future.‘We’re recruiting big-time players, and people are starting to take notice,’ Jensen said. ‘These blue chips are going to run into the best competition in the country, so that helps us line up our positives and say, ‘If you come here, you’re going to succeed.”Jensen quickly noted freshman standout Amanda Rodgers, a former blue-star prospect that wasted little time enhancing her game and asserting her lefty dominance at the college level. In her first season, Rodgers tied the all-time record for most consecutive single matches won (14) and departed South Florida two weekends ago as the team’s most efficient singles player with an 18-2 record.With an advantage recruiting top talent and the core of the team returning, SU has a bright future ahead.Although injuries derailed the Orange late in the season, the team is in position to accomplish its goal moving forward.And even as Syracuse saw its dreams end with the loss to Louisville, Harman was proud looking back on all her team accomplished.‘It was a bitter end to a great season,’ Harman said. ‘I realized how far the team has come. Even though we lost, even though we didn’t finish the way we wanted, it was still a learning opportunity. It’s all about progressing and improving.’[email protected] Published on May 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm Facebook Twitter Google+
Thurles Sarsfields coach Paddy McCormack told Tipp FM Sport that there has been little between the teams in recent meetings and Sunday is sure to be no different.Sunday’s match throws in at Semple Stadium at 3.15 and Tipp FM will have full live coverage in assocation with Horse & Jockey KIA, Thurles. Sarsfields defeated a brave Kilruane McDonaghs in the semi finals while Nenagh defeated Drom Inch after extra time in a thrilling semi final.Both sides have a lot of experience in their ranks having both being involved in the closing stages of the county in recent years. The teams drew in last year’s championship with Sarsfields winning out in extra time and the Thurles side went on to be victorious in the county final.
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier talks Jay-Z impression, what makes an elite defender and his appreciation of hippos
MORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whiparound show on DAZNSPORTING NEWS: First things first: Have you retired the Jay-Z impression?KEVIN KIERMAIER: I have. People abused it early on, it’s just one of those things. I am a baseball player. I might bust it out spontaneously, but I’m not the Jay Pharoahs of the world or the entertainers who do this on the spot.I don’t shy away from it, it’s just one of those things that I don’t think they’re elite impressions. So I’m not gonna sit here and do them over and over, ’cause it’s one of those things that when it comes out of my mouth, it annoys myself and other people are probably like, “Eeehhhh, it’s not that great.” Some people aren’t afraid to beat a dead horse. But me, I’m done. SN: Being an elite defender, what does it take? Is it instinct, preparation?KK: Instinct, preparation, baseball IQ, not afraid to be unorthodox, listening to your body out there, more than anything. I always tell my guys there isn’t a right or a wrong way to do anything as far fielding ground balls, throwing guys out at the plate, as long as you’re efficient and it works, and you’re limiting movements. The more that you do that, and if it works, you don’t need to change anything. That’s why I always tell guys, when I’m talking to college players or minor league guys, don’t be afraid to be unorthodox. That being said, if I wanted to make a darn-near-perfect outfielder, I want someone who can run, who has arm strength, accuracy, wherewithall, instincts that come into play, great first step, all that. What separates good outfielders from great outfielders, great outfielders go back, take their eye off the ball, trust their route, can play a ball off the wall, rob a homer, do certain things like that. You see a lot of guys in the big leagues every year where, once that ball’s hit over their head they don’t know what to do. It’s a great thing to always see guys who take craft on that side of the game.Anyone can come in on a ball that we’re looking at the whole time, but that ball that’s hit over our head that we have to run over 100 feet or so, make a play at the wall while we’re jumping or hitting the wall, coming down, I think that’s what separates the best from the rest of the pack. It’s just one small example but it’s a big part of the game. If you don’t catch those, they’re either home runs that get out by this much or extra base hits — for sure doubles; if it’s a good runner, easily a triple. The guys who catch those plays, it’s so much run prevention.SN: Three rapid fire questions, try not to overthink these: You’re in the gym getting pumped up, headphones on, sweating. What’s you’re go-to song or artist?KK: Oh, man. I’m different, man, the heavy metal, all that stuff. There’s a lot of rap songs and country songs that get you pumped. The three songs I listen to, each and every day — this is gonna be one of the craziest answers you get, and you probably haven’t heard a couple of these. Every day before the game, I listen to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, I listen to “Beer in the Headlights” by Luke Bryan and then I listen to “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. I listen to those three songs every day. They’re not pump-up songs by any means but I love ’em, and I’ve been doing it for years now. And I know whenever those songs come on, I know it’s game time. Right after I put my eyeblack on, I’m ready to rock-and-roll, and I hear those and then my blood gets pumpin’. Very weird, random song choice, I understand that, but that’s who I am. And that’s unorthodox, and that’s who I am. I’m not afraid of that, at all. Other teammates are like, “Why does this guy listen to three random songs?” but I don’t care what they say. It gets me locked in.SN: Pizza or tacos?KK: Tacos. Big taco guy.SN: Soft or hard shell?KK: Hard shell. All day. All day. SN: A hippo and a rhino get into a fight. Who wins?KK: Wow. I’m a big nature guy, so I know hippos kill more people every year in Africa more than any other animal every year. But, man, a rhino. Hippo is a baaaaad, baaaaad animal — trust me. But the rhino’s horn, and the thick skin, manueverability around the hippo — on land, I don’t think the hippo has a shot. So I’m going with the rhino. But like I said, it hurts me to say that because the hippo is very low-key — doesn’t get enough credit for how dangerous it really is. Every year in Africa, leading killer, more than lions, all that stuff, crocs, all that. Every year. Hippo, No. 1. Each and every year. Throughout the 2019 MLB season, Sporting News will run short interviews with players, highlighting their favorite foods, activities and more.In this edition, SN’s Joe Rivera got two minutes with Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier.