Going into the weekend, the men’s tennis team (14-4, 2-1 Ivy) is in a good position as it prepares to travel today and tomorrow to play Brown and Yale, respectively. Whether the men’s good fortune continues in this weekend and those coming may depend less on the quality of the team’s play than on the quality of its health.
Last week, for example, the squad, helped by another heroic three set victory by sophomore Scott Paltrowitz, edged Dartmouth 4-3. However, it missed an opportunity to upend 24th ranked Harvard, losing 5-2. While Harvard would have been a difficult opponent under any scenario, Cornell was undoubtedly hurt by having two of its top three singles players unable to play. Nonetheless, Cornell ended the weekend with a 2-1 record in Ivy League play, the first team it has achieved such a mark since 1998.
Unlike the most recent weekend, where Cornell could reliably be termed the favorite in the Dartmouth match and the underdog against Harvard, the team will have its work cut out for it in both matches this weekend.
“Brown, along with Yale are top 50 in the nation,” head coach Barry Schoonmaker pointed out. “We will be the underdogs. They both have strong teams but we’ve got a good team too.”
While conventional wisdom might say that the better team should win, the healthiest one may dominate the action. Senior captain Stefan Paulovic has been nursing a sore shoulder all season, while sophomore Scott Spencer is recovering from mononucleosis. In addition, despite thrashing his Dartmouth opponent in the team’s most recent match, top player Zach Gallin’s hamstring remains a cause for concern going into the game.
Health will be a factor for Cornell’s opponents as well. Playing without their top player, Steve Berke, Yale has lost it last three matches.
“He might be done for the year,” Schoonmaker said. “The whole complexion of that team changes when he’s out of the lineup, but we have to assume he’s playing.”
With or without Berke, Schoonmaker evinced a cautious optimism with respect to the match against the Bulldogs.
“Yale is a very good team, but we beat them last year, and we can beat them again,” he asserted.
The match against Brown will also be an uphill battle. Brown and Harvard are favored to vie for the Ivy League title. And while the matchups will be different in each case, those against Brown and Yale contain a similar dynamic described by Schoonmaker as, “Both winnable, but difficult matches.”
Archived article by Andrew Bernie