Published on January 28, 2019 at 10:54 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @CraneAndrew Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ During Syracuse’s match against No. 9 Michigan last Saturday at a tournament in Oxford, MS, Dina Hegab was in a familiar position. She dropped the first set and recovered to win the second. With Syracuse leading the Wolverines by one point, Hegab needed to win her third set to clinch the match.In commanding form, Hegab defeated Alyvia Jones, a sophomore, 6-0 in the third set, earning the Orange’s final point in its 4-2 win over the Wolverines.For Hegab, it was her second consecutive clincher. The next day, against Purdue, the senior added a third. During her four years at Syracuse, the Egypt-native has rotated between the fourth and sixth singles. This season, with the addition of transfer Guzal Yusupova, fifth singles has been Hegab’s home. In her matches, Hegab has leveraged her experience to overpower younger opponents, who usually don’t play upperclassmen at fifth singles. Hegab is undefeated this season, and two of her four singles wins have come against freshmen or sophomores. She’s exploited weaknesses along the way, a large part of why the Orange (4-0) remain undefeated.“Her game has evolved,” associate head coach Shelley George said. “She’s become a leader.”During her first match at Syracuse in 2016, Hegab earned the clinching point against No. 58 Columbia. From the sixth singles slot, she defeated freshman Sarah Hu in straight sets in SU’s 4-3 win.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textDuring the next three years, Hegab bounced around different spots in the lineup. Up to fourth singles for a match, then back to sixth. She wasn’t in the lineup for last year’s season-opening win against Niagara. Head coach Younes Limam used a different combination for the first five matches in 2018, and, initially, Hegab wasn’t considered a starter. But five days later, she was back in the fifth slot and didn’t lose a game in her singles match against Colgate.As a senior, she’s usually playing against underclassmen because of Syracuse’s depth. Senior Gabriela Knutson has consistently held a top-3 lineup spot since her freshman year, as has Miranda Ramirez. Senior Masha Tritou was once a No. 3 singles player, ahead of Hegab, but has yet to play this season. Hegab has familiarized herself with her role, eventually using seniority to her advantage.In doubles, Hegab said freshmen are nervous at the start of matches. That’s fueled her strategy in the early season. She starts matches with aggression, like using a hard second serve to earn a point against Brown on Jan. 19. Brown’s third duo — comprised of a senior and freshman — fired returns into the net. Overpower opponents with aggressiveness, Hegab said, and they won’t catch up.Yusupova, Hegab’s doubles partner, focuses on powerful shots from behind the baseline. The two suffered their first doubles loss of the spring season last Sunday against Purdue, but before that, they won their first two matches 6-1 and 6-4. Against Columbia, they faced two freshman. Against Brown, one.“She already went through college tennis,” Hegab said of Yusupova. “It’s not like I’m playing with a freshman that I need to get to know and get to introduce her to college tennis.”Hegab’s own experience has benefited her this season. In singles, Hegab outlasts her opponents. Two of her four wins this spring are come-from-behind victories. Three of her matches have gone to three sets. George said that when Hegab’s out fighting, she knows Syracuse is in a good spot.Against Columbia on Jan. 19, Hegab led 5-3 against Andrea Kevakian in fifth singles with a chance to hold serve for the win. At deuce, play was stopped during Kevakian’s return as a ball from Libi Mesh’s practice game rolled onto the court. Kevakian shouted “Really?” and pumped her racket. But Hegab remained collected. She bounced the ball six times, leaned back, and served. After a four-hit rally, Hegab sent a forehand winner down the line to clinch the match.At Drumlins Country Club, Hegab usually competes on Court 1, away from Knutson and Ramirez, who attract the most attention. Numbers and pairings don’t matter to her, Hegab said. If she wins her match, regardless of what spot she’s in, her job is complete: move Syracuse one step closer to that fourth point.