After a tough loss to Memphis on Saturday, Cornell men’s tennis showed its resilience and bounced back to earn a victory over Penn State on Sunday.
The Red struggled against a talented Tigers team. After three straight singles losses, all of which came in straight sets, the Red found itself in an insurmountable hole and lost 4-0. Although he was not happy with the result, head coach Silviu Tanasoiu remained optimistic about the performance of his young team.
“Memphis is a top 20 type of team this year and I want to give them the credit they deserve,” Tanasoiu said. “We are still trying to find our identity individually and as a team. We have a young group that needs a little more time to solidify its identity.”
It was that same optimism that allowed the Red to bounce back with a 4-2 win over the Nittany Lions on Sunday. Three set singles wins by senior Daniel Grunberger and freshman Evan Bynoe highlighted the match, and the team showed great composure as they pulled out the win without sophomore singles star Lev Karakov.
“We had to make some major adjustments to both our doubles and singles lineup,” Tanasoiu said. “The boys responded well and they played with a lot of conviction. I think that was the main difference between the first few matches and [Sunday’s] match.”
The Red’s ability to respond to adversity starts with freshmen Alafia Ayeni and Bynoe. Both Ayeni and Bynoe played their own singles matches against Penn State and had the stamina to play together in doubles later in the day. Bynoe’s three set singles victory over Penn State junior Ben Lieb proved to be pivotal in the team’s victory.
Bynoe and Ayeni have developed a strong sense of camaraderie that has allowed them to take on leadership roles, even though they are freshmen.
“It’s always helpful when experiencing something new to have someone else who is going through the same thing,” Bynoe said. “I think we’re helping each other out to be as efficient as possible. We’re studying together, training together, hanging out together, generally just keeping each other focused and motivated.”
Just as Bynoe’s easy-going personality has allowed him to step into a large role for the team as a freshman, his calm demeanor has been something he believes has held him back at times.
“I am still trying to find the right emotional balance on the court. I was a pretty calm and subdued player before going to Cornell,” he said. “But I have realized that the sheer speed and intensity of college tennis require that I be a bit more energized.”
The freshman duo and their teammates will be back at it this weekend as the Red travel to New Haven, Connecticut for the ECAC Championships where it will be all hands on deck to take home gold.
“We need to take care of our bodies and get healthy across the board,” Tanasoiu said. “We have three days to prepare and correct the things we saw over the weekend. Ultimately, we need every soul in the team immersed in the process.”
The action gets going Friday and runs through Sunday.