The courts of the Reis Tennis Center came alive this weekend as the women’s tennis team hosted squads from Binghamton, UMBC, Army, Bucknell and Columbia in the Cornell Invitational, one last tune-up before the dual competitions of the spring season start.
“The first week of practice went really well and we had really high expectations,” said senior Akane Kokubo. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking coming back from such a long break, but overall everyone played really well.”
Although the Red has not faced competition since October, it showed no signs of a winter slump on the first day of the tournament. Three of the five doubles teams stood undefeated at the end of the first two rounds. Kokubo and junior Mollie Edinson had a first-round bye in the “A” Flight, and took a match from the Binghamton squad to stay perfect. The other “A” duo of senior captain Melissa Tu and classmate Erika Takeuchi dropped a match to Army before bouncing back against Binghamton.
“Everyone was really pumped up,” Kokubo said. “Now we know that everyone is at the same level, and when people on the same team are at the same level you can only get better from playing each other.”
The Red’s “B” Flight pairs also came out strong. Junior Kara Maloy and sophomore Kasia Prenata took advantage of a bye in the first round and then handed another defeat to the Army squad to come out of the day unbeaten. The freshman team of Ashley Ebbert and Dana Cruite started their first spring campaign on a positive note, earning victories over Army and UMBC. Sophomores Melanie Tu and Nisha Suda earned a win over Army in the first round before dropping a match to Columbia.
On Saturday, the Red continued to dominate. Kokubu led the way, sweeping through the “A” Flight singles undefeated. Takeuchi, Suda, and Melissa Tu followed suit in the “B” Flight, making an all-Red singles final a possibility. The Red was not as strong in the “C” Flight, where Maloy, Ebbert, and Melanie Tu each dropped a match. Maloy recovered in the doubles bracket, where she teamed with Prenata to advance in the “B” doubles over teammates Ebbert and Cruite.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape right now,” Kokubo said of the Red’s strong start. “We’ve been doing extra sprints and lifting and as we continue the things we’re doing right now it can only help us throughout the season. The more matches we have can only make us better.”
The final day of competition found the Red team members fighting for titles amongst themselves. Milena Kachar of Columbia beat out Kokubo for the “A” singles title, and freshman Weatherly Schwab fell to Diana Alquero of Army in the “D” final, but the other finals were all-Red affairs. Suda advanced to the “B” finals over Melissa Tu, and then beat Takeuchi by a score of 7-6(5), 6-4 to claim a tightly contested title. Maloy and Melanie Tu met in the finals of the consolation bracket of “C” finals as well, with Maloy earning the victory.
“One thing that stuck out was everyone was really supportive of each other,” Kokubo said. “The negative side was the lack of practice, but from the short time we had on the courts we did the best we could.”
This was the last individual tournament for the Red, which now heads into the tough Ivy schedule of dual competitions.
“It’s always a confidence booster,” Kokubo said of the home tournament. “If you can do well at home with a lot more supporters you know your level and you can test yourself. It helped us for the rest of the season.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Staff Writer