Although the members of Cornell’s women’s tennis team left Ithaca this weekend like many of us, it wasn’t to take a break. The team went to New York City to compete in the annual USTA Billie Jean King Women’s College Invitational. The tournament, which takes place on the same courts as those used for the U.S. Open, was a great opportunity for members of the young squad to showcase their talent on a big stage in preparation for the upcoming spring season.
Two players in particular shone at the tournament. Sophomore Geraldine Leong and freshman Elizabeth Kaufman teamed up to win the Flight D doubles and individually both players made it to their respective flight finals but lost, each coincidentally to a player from a school from Boston (no –– not Harvard, but Boston College).
The tournament was the second time Kaufman and Leong had played together; the first time was at the Cornell Invitational back in mid-September. Head coach Mike Stevens’ indications suggest that the duo has the potential to develop into a solid tandem.
“Geraldine is so solid out there,” he said. “She doesn’t miss any balls. She sets up Elizabeth very well. They both understand the game of doubles.”
Stevens also pointed to the similarity between each player’s net game.
“They’re both strong at the net which is why they do so well at doubles,” he said.
Individually, Stevens praised Leong’s volley game.
“She’s very quick. She knows when to step in and take advantage of a short ball and put the ball away. She’s very good as far as the volleys go. She can stick her volleys well,” he said.
He also noted her ability to consistently hit many shots back pointing out how that can really wear an opponent down.
When assessing Kaufman, he said, “Elizabeth has good power on her shots. She has nice topspin on her shots, and she can move the ball around a little bit which is good.”
Leong and Kaufman come to the team from very different backgrounds. Leong comes from Hong Kong, where she played tennis at the prestigious Hong Kong International Tennis Academy. Although she has a year of collegiate experience, she didn’t see much action last season.
Kaufman began playing tennis almost by random.
“My sister was always figure skating and my mom wanted me to have a sport of my own, so she sent me away to tennis camp over the summer when I was seven years old,” she said.
She has loved it ever since. At Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Md., Kaufman played at No. 1 singles for two years. However, she hasn’t had much competitive play since because she tore her ACL in her junior year of high school.
Leong and Kaufman appear to be rising stars on the young women’s tennis team, but this early in the preseason Stevens was hesitant to single out either player as outstanding.
“Our lineup is very deep this year … the competition to get into the singles and doubles lineup is very competitive. That’s a strength of our team — the depth of our team,” he said.
He believes that the competition amongst the players will make everyone better and lead to a very competitive team in Ivy League play this year.
Original Author: Brian Bencomo