After finishing with a winning 14-8 record last season, including a 3-4 record in the Ivy League, the Cornell men’s tennis team is back in action with hopes of serving up some serious competition this year. The Red finished last season ranked 54th in the nation, and with the squad remaining mostly intact — Brett Cromwell, Jared Karson, and Charles Quay were the team’s only 2013 graduates — the Red is poised for another successful season.
In fact, none of the team’s starters graduated last season, according to junior co-captain Sam Fleck.
“Winning the Ivy League and qualifying for the NCAA tournament [are] very realistic and achievable goals,” he said. Another one of the Red’s aspirations is to “defend [its] title at the Eastern College Athletic Conference [ECAC] tournament,” Fleck said. The Red secured the title last February.
One of the ways the team is planning on continuing its successes from last season, as well as surpassing its prior achievements, is by becoming more comfortable with the challenges faced on and off the court. Head coach Silviu Tanasoiu emphasized that excellence includes both the positives of winning as well as the negative situations a player might encounter.
“Our main lesson from last year is to welcome challenges and search for the ‘uncomfortable,’ ” he said. “If we want to grow and become a feared team, we not only have to deal with, but pursue the uncomfortable. There is an opportunity for growth in every uncomfortable situation. It is not about adjusting to it but about searching for it.”
Tanasoiu hopes to build on what the team achieved last season.
“Our number one goal is to build on last year’s foundation,” he said. “With the help of our team leaders, we are welcoming five new players in our program and we are looking forward to integrat[ing them] into our program and philosophy.”
This season, the Red is welcoming the number fourteenth ranked recruiting class in the nation. Philip Antohi, Dylan Brown, Bernardo Casares Rosa, Christopher Vrabel, and Colin Sinclair will be making their way onto the courts at the Reis Tennis Center from all over the world — Long Island, California, Ecuador, Virginia, and Australia, respectively. The high caliber of the Red’s freshmen recruits will certainly play a role in the team’s success this season.“[The recruits have] significantly increased our strength and depth, which means there will be much more healthy competition for the starting spots than in previous years,” Fleck said. “[The freshmen are] the future of the program, so we look forward in helping them improve in any way we can.”Tanasoiu is also looking forward to seeing what the freshmen have to offer.“First and foremost they are all adding depth to our practices and competition,” he said. “We are bringing five new players with distinct styles and rich junior careers. Besides solid junior results, I am sensing a lot of hunger for excellence from each one of them. It will be our job to help them nourish that hunger and integrate them into our program right away. Each one of them will have a realistic shot of contributing both singles and doubles and we expect them to take full advantage of that opportunity.”The way the Red will most effectively integrate its newest members stems from what Tanasoiu deems the team’s biggest asset — its leadership. “We will grow and succeed based on the direction given by our leadership within the team. It is by far our greatest strength and I am counting on it,” he said. “Overall, we will go as far as our leaders will decide to take us.”Fleck mentioned a few other strengths to be on the lookout for this season.“Our doubles play is now one of our greatest strengths. We struggled at this in my freshman year, but last year we won almost every doubles point. We hope and expect that this will continue to be one of our strengths in matches this year,” he said. “Another strength is our level of fitness compared to other teams, especially the Ivy’s. We work extremely hard during the fall to make sure we are in great shape for when the season starts.”The increasingly strong bonds between the team members will also serve as an asset.“We have become much closer as a team in the past year, which has made us more resilient in matches,” Fleck said. “We now fight for one another as well as the team, whereas a few years ago we were more of a group of individuals. It has also made the game more enjoyable for all of us.”
Original Author: Olivia Wittels