Stefan Vinti, the only senior on the Cornell men’s team, joked that he feels lonely on the squad. A stark moment of silence followed his comment, then he laughed.
“I’m just kidding,” Vinti said. “There are a lot of juniors on the team in the recruiting class of 2017 — which I am a part of — so I am really close with these guys.”
Vinti was a sophomore transfer and has played for the Red for the past three years — a seasoned vet by all accounts. As such, the senior has many interesting and unique insights into the Red’s tennis culture.
Vinti commented on how he’s seen the program develop over his three-year career in the program. According to Vinti, the change has been mostly cultural.
“The way we go about things is kaizen, which in Japanese represents the concept of constant and continuous improvement,” Vinti said. “I believe this year especially we’ve improved a lot. We have players who are really professional, dedicated, and have great work ethic on and off the court.”
Graduating next year, Vinti reminisced about some of his favorite Red tennis traditions. One of the things the lone senior will miss most is the team’s traditional pre-match chant.
“Everybody is involved with it,” Vinti said. “We get together, we form a circle, rock back and forth. It’s intense and a great way to pump each other up. It’s typically led by a senior, so this year it’s me because I’m the only senior.”
Despite his fond memories, Vinti was mildly critical of the Red’s performance to start this season.
Following the men’s first match at Buffalo, the Red suffered five straight losses — hardly a strong start.
“It wasn’t an ideal scenario,” Vinti said. “Some of the guys were coming back sluggish off the break. We took some time to gain traction in the season.”
After the slow start, however, the Red entered the ECAC Indoor Championships and changed the season around. After defeating St. John’s in the first round, 4-1, and Harvard in the semis, 4-1, the Red lost to Princeton in the finals, 1-5. According to Vinti, this was a definite highlight of the season.
“An incredible performance given our slow start this year,” Vinti said.
The Red finished the season with an overall record of 12-10. Notably, Vinti played at the third singles position and remained undefeated in the Ivy League season.
Vinti humbly said that statistics like these aren’t important to him; rather, he prefers to focus on playing tennis for tennis’ sake, not for numbers.
“I’m not a big fan of checking results and monitoring stats closely,” Vinti said. “Obviously it feels good, I won’t deny that. I’m just taking it match by match, trying to do my best and perform my best. If the tennis is good, results will follow.”
Cornell is currently waiting to see if it has done enough to warrant an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. While the team’s chances may have increased since recent victories over Penn and Princeton, Vinti said the chances are “contingent on other teams losing.”
The draw for the NCAAs will be announced at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3. For Vinti, this decision could be especially poignant.
“Its definitely going to be very emotional, since this is my last season,” Vinti said.
The Cornell women’s tennis team (15-8, 4-3 Ivy) saw its hopes of the Ivy championship slip away in the team’s last bout against the Princeton Tigers with a 5-2 loss. The match was bittersweet, as it coincided with the Red’s senior day at home.
The team graduates two seniors this year, and with an offseason of improvement, the women have their sights set on redeeming themselves next season, and clinching the Ivy championship.