The Cornell men’s tennis team continued its winning ways this past weekend with an admirable performance at the ECAC championships.
Eight of the team’s top players traveled down to the USTA National Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., to take on 16 of the northeast’s best teams, a field which included Ivy League rivals Princeton and Brown. By the end of the weekend, all eight members of the team played key roles in the team’s sixth-place finish.
The seventh-seeded Red’s first round opponent was 10th-seeded Manhattan. Despite beating the Jaspers 4-3 and advancing to the second round, the match was filled with more anxiety than excitement for many of the players.
“I personally had no doubts that we were going to win, but it was definitely a lot closer than it should have been,” said junior Josh Raff, who compiled an overall record of 6-0 for the tournament.
The Red started off the weekend strong against Manhattan by gaining the advantage in doubles competition.
Junior Nick Brunner and Raff easily dispensed Manhattan’s Bogdan Borda and Zolton Bus, 8-2, to offset juniors Dan Brous and Charn Bak’s tight 8-6 loss to David and Diego Alvardao. The deciding match came down to senior captains Brett McKeon and Ray Wu, who clinched the doubles point by defeating Peter Czink and Filip Szymik, 8-4.
In singles competition, the Red split its decisions with Manhattan to clinch the overall match 4-3. Raff, Brous and sophomore Tongle Yu led the way by winning their matches handily, balancing the losses of McKeon, Brunner and freshman Peter Kung. Brous echoed the concerns of his teammate about the tight nature of the match.
“We were probably a little too confident, but it was nice to get a win under our belts,” Brous said. In the second round on Saturday, the Red faced Ivy League powerhouse and second seeded Brown, which had previously defeated Rutgers, 5-2.
As in its previous match, the Red was able to get off to a fast start by snaring the doubles point. Brunner and Raff continued their doubles dominance by defeating Philip Charm and Dan Hanegby, 8-4, in the first match.
After McKeon and Wu lost 8-5, Bak and Brous came up with a doubles-point clinching 8-6 victory over Saurabh Kohli and Eric Thomas.
The excitement of this early advantage, however, quickly dissipated with the outcome of the singles matches.
The team finished by losing five out of six singles matches, four of which were decided in straight sets. The lone bright spot of the match was the gritty determination of Raff, who tallied the Red’s lone singles point by beating Charm in three sets, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 1-0 (8).
“We were all fired up after getting that doubles win, and then Brown just took it to us,” Brous said. To further dampen the Red’s spirits, the squad also lost one of its best players to injury during the match.
Brunner, the team’s No. 2 singles player, strained a muscle in his back in doubles competition and although he played through the pain in his singles match, he was unavailable for the rest of the tournament.
However, the slightly demoralized Red was able to bounce back on Sunday in its battle with Princeton for sixth place in the tournament, as Cornell exacted a measure of revenge on the Tigers – who had beaten the team in its final match last spring – by winning, 5-2.
For much of the match, the Red seemed like a different team than the one that took the court just a day before.
Playing without Brunner, head coach Barry Schoonmaker was forced to bump all of his players up a spot, as well as utilize some of his reserves to play in the No. 5 and 6 spots.
The team responded to the challenge by sweeping the doubles matches as well as winning four of six singles matches. Leading the way was Wu and Bak, who both came off the bench to win matches at the No. 5 and No. 6 spots, respectively.
With such a convincing victory to end the tournament, the team left Flushing Meadows with its heads held high.
“We wanted to send a message to our competition that we are a better team this year – and we did,” Raff said.
Archived article by Lance Williams