With four teams currently ranked in the ITA Top-75 and six teams boasting winning records, the 2010 men’s Ivy League season has been as competitive and unpredictable as ever before. It is only fitting, therefore, that the battle for the league championship comes down to the final weekend of play. Among the five teams in the running for the title is No. 70 Cornell, which –– with a record of 3-2 in conference play –– currently sits in fourth place, just one game back of league leaders No. 46 Columbia and Princeton.
In order to claim the title all for itself, the Red (16-7, 3-2) would need both Columbia and Princeton to lose their remaining two matches this weekend. Unfortunately for Cornell, however, the two Tigers’ squads will meet on Sunday in New York City, guaranteeing a win for one of them and shattering any hopes of an outright title for the Red.
Cornell still has a chance to earn a share of the title, though, but in order to do so several pieces will need to fall the Red’s way over the coming days. For one thing, both Columbia and Princeton would need to lose at least one match over the weekend. In addition, Yale, which beat both Cornell and Columbia a week ago, would need to lose one of its three remaining matches. Even Harvard, a trendy pick in the preseason to win the Ivy League, can sneak back into the title race with a couple of wins this weekend.
“[The Ivy League] has been a little unpredictable,” said junior captain Jeremy Feldman. “Overall it’s been strong, but kind of unpredictable.”
Due to the various potential scenarios and the unpredictable nature of the Ivy League season thus far, it would do Cornell no good to dwell on what could or might happen. Instead, the Red needs to take care of its own business this weekend.
“Obviously it doesn’t matter if we don’t win both of our matches,” said junior captain Jeremy Feldman. “We’re just looking to take care of business first and then we’ll see how the cards fall out.”
Feldman and the rest of the Red will open the weekend this afternoon in Princeton, N.J., for a 2 p.m. match with the Tigers (8-11, 4-1). A Cornell win would move the Red into a tie with the Tigers with just one match to play and would be a significant step towards earning that elusive first title.
Following the match with Princeton, Cornell will return home to close out its season against Penn (11-8, 1-4) at the Reis Tennis Center on Sunday at 12 p.m. The Quakers have struggled throughout Ivy League play this spring and the matchup could provide Cornell with a great opportunity to send its senior class out on a winning note.
“It would mean a lot. They have dedicated a lot to this team for the last four years,” Feldman said of seniors Ashish Bhandari, Jon Fife and Richard Offutt. “To close it out with two victories and to have a chance to win a title would mean a lot to them.”
The men’s tennis team will not be the only Cornell squad saying goodbye to its seniors this weekend, as the women’s team will do the same with matches against Princeton and Penn today and Sunday.
The Red’s two seniors, Natalia Sanchez and Susan Sullivan, will play their final home match at the Reis Tennis Center when Cornell (11-9, 1-4) faces the Tigers (18-5, 5-0) this afternoon at 2 p.m. The women’s team will face a slightly more difficult task than the men’s team as it tries to capture one last home victory for Sanchez and Sullivan. A winner of eight in a row and 12 out of its last 13, Princeton is undefeated in conference play and is well on its way to its ninth Ivy League title.
“They are an excellent team,” Sanchez said. “Their lineup is just very consistent throughout. We’re going out there and trying to do our best and we’ll see what happens.”
After finishing up its home schedule, the Red will travel to Philadelphia, Pa., to wrap up Ivy League play with a 12 p.m. match with Penn (4-13, 0-5). The Quakers, which have yet to win a game in-conference and has won just four matches all year, presents Cornell with a considerable opportunity to send Sanchez and Sullivan out on a winning note. And according to Sanchez, the match could also serve as a little payback as well.
“It would be great if we could get either one of the two matches that we have coming up,” Sanchez said. “This year [Penn] is struggling … and we really do have a chance at beating them, which we didn’t do last year.”