On its voyage through Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area, the unranked men’s tennis team took down an Old Dominion team ranked No. 66 in the nation on Friday, 4-0, before hitting a bump in the road at No. 33 Virginia Commonwealth in the form of a 6-1 loss on Saturday. Sunday, Cornell finished up with a rousing 7-0 drubbing of unranked Georgetown.
“I actually think the key was scheduling,” said junior Josh Raff. “We knew Old Dominion would be the team most equal to us, and the fact that we went out there and took it to them gave us a little confidence going in against VCU on Saturday. Even though we lost, we knew could go all out, because we thought we would have a pretty good hold on Georgetown, which we did.”
Raff, who generally plays in the No. 2 position on singles and No. 1 position on double won a tiring battle Friday, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, over Old Dominion, but fell to VCU’s Arnaud Lecloerec – ranked No. 52 in the nation – in straight sets, 2-6, 4-6, the next day. Sunday, however, Raff returned with a resounding traight set, 6-1, 6-1, victory over Georgetown.
“I felt like my serve was a little more consistent this weekend,” Raff said. “I got to the net well and forced things that way with my volley, which was on. Still, I know my footwork will be the key down the road, helping me get to the ball earlier.”
While the Red lost only two of six singles matches and one of three doubles matches Friday against the Monarchs, they were only able to muster a single match victory the next afternoon against VCU.
Junior Brett McKeon, playing at the No. 1 singles slot, was that lone exception with his 6-4, 6-3, decision.
Despite the match score of the loss, junior Dan Brous maintained that the team played well Saturday, but was simply outmatched by VCU, who as recently as 2000 was runner-up for the National Championship.
“I felt like we were well prepared, and competed hard,” Brous said. “We were just anxious to get out there this weekend, and just actually play. Really it will just be a matter of getting into that groove. Most of the guys playing were in the lineup last year, so we don’t lack experience, we just need to keep working hard in practice.”
Despite being well prepared, both Brous and Raff admitted the weekend was taxing.
“I wish I had been a little more clutch on Saturday,” Brous said, referring to his down-to-the-wire loss, 3-6, 7-6 (1), 2-6, against the Rams.
“My serve was my biggest weapon over the weekend, but towards the end of the match Saturday, I definitely lost a little steam and was feeling the effects of Friday’s match [which also went three sets, a 7-6, 4-6, 5-4, win]. It’s not an excuse, I just need to finish when I start getting in the nitty gritty.”
“We’re really enjoying the day off,” Raff said yesterday. “Tomorrow, it’s right back to it, though. Scheduling all these matches early is really a good thing though. Actual game matches are the best way to help your conditioning, so it’s better we get it out of the way now, rather than later.”
Overall, the players said they felt as if they put in a good team effort, with freshman Rory Heggie and junior Nick Brunner also recording important victories Friday and Sunday. Raff, who paired up with Brunner for a doubles win against the Monarchs, said he hopes they can build off this weekend.
“Hopefully, we can ride this wave to the Ivy League, which is our ultimate goal,” Raff said. “Everyone knows every match they play helps the team. This makes it easier to push harder when you’re thinking about throwing in the towel because you know that all the other guys are depending on you. That’ll help us down the road.”
Brous agreed the weekend will provide confidence, but looks a little nearer in the future, to next weekend.
“We have some tough matchups against Binghamton and Penn St. coming up,” Brous said. “We got some needed confidence this weekend, though, and that will help us.”
Archived article by Cory Bennett
Sun Staff Writer