There is an air of excitement surrounding the men’s tennis team this spring.
Coming off a successful 12-8 year, the men have stormed out of the gate and currently hold an unbeaten 8-0 record. Led by seniors Mike Halperin and Greg Artzt, and supported by a talented freshman group, the Red is in good shape to improve significantly on last year’s record.
The hunger and ambition of this team is undeniable.
“Our goal is to win the Ivy League and it shouldn’t be anything less,” stated tri-captain Artzt. “We have the talent to do that.”
Artzt and his teammates will be looking to better their 2-5 Ivy League record last spring, which was the only blemish in an otherwise stellar campaign.
Head coach Barry Schoonmaker agreed that the Ivy League title is a realistic target to aim for.
“That’s the goal we’re setting,” he said. “There’s no doubt that we can compete with anybody in the league.”
Schoonmaker is entering his sixth year at the helm of the men’s team, having coached at Siena College between 1986-91. Prior to this year, his teams have compiled an overall 55-66 record. At the rate the men have disposed of their opponents lately, that record will likely look much healthier come the end of the season.
There is good reason for everyone involved with the program to feel optimistic. Returning for his final year is defending Ivy League Player of the Year Mike Halperin. He was unbeaten last year in Ivy League singles matches, going 7-0 while posting an overall mark of 12-3. Halperin was named to the All-Ivy Singles Team, and finished last season by taking part in the Division I Championships. He is also tri-captain along with Artzt and doubles expert Russell Gimelstob, the younger brother of tennis pro Justin.
Halperin, who will carry the responsibility of playing at the no.1 spot against the opponent’s best player, is well supported by Artzt and junior Stefan Paulovic. Artzt had a solid 12-7 record last year, playing anywhere between the no.1 and no. 3 spots while German native Paulovic posted a 13-5 mark playing at the no. 3, no. 4, or no. 5 positions. Paulovic also teamed up with Halperin to finish 6-5 in doubles play.
One of the reasons for the high expectations this spring is the incoming group of rookies. Early on, they proved that they’re not on the roster just to fill out the bench. It is a clear indication of coach Schoonmaker’s confidence in his newcomers that freshmen Zach Gallin and Scott Paltrowitz lined up in singles play in the first matchup of the spring against Richmond.
“We had a 100% yield on our recruits,” said Schoonmaker. “It was just good luck; the recruiting went really well.”
The play of the freshmen has also impressed upperclassmen like Artzt.
“Zach Gallin is playing exceptionally well,” he noted. “He’s a very talented kid.”
About Paltrowitz, Artzt added, “Scott is a fighter, one of the hardest workers I’ve seen.”
Gallin, Paltrowitz, and fellow newcomer Julien Cheng combine to give the Red great depth in singles play, something it will need if it is to overcome some tough Ivy League opponents.
Artzt also believes that the leadership role he currently holds (along with Halperin and Gimelstob) will be carried on well in the future by Paulovic.
“He’s already proven he knows how to win,” Artzt said. “He’s a guy who everybody respects, who thinks about what’s best for the team.”
“He’s got a lot of leadership qualities,” Schoonmaker agreed.
The future is in good hands, but the time to win may be now. With top singles players Halperin and Artzt playing their final seasons for the Red, this year could represent the best chance that Cornell has of making a mark on Division I tennis. However, Artzt feels more excited than pressured by that thought.
“It’s nice to have the best chance to do something great in the last year,” he said.