March 12, 2003

Veterans Provide Solid Leadership

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The women’s tennis team is again without a full-time head coach. The team has seen four different coaches since 1996. Yet, for former assistant and now interim-head coach Tom Brownlie ’98, there are no questions regarding his squad this season.

The team had a 1-6 Ivy record last year, but records can be deceiving. Losses to Brown and Dartmouth were each by a single point. Heading into this year, Brownlie intends to focus more on Ivy League play.

“It’s the Ivy League that matters,” said Brownlie. “Everything we do is preparation for Ivy matches.”

In addition to concentrating on the Ivy matchups, Brownlie has made a few changes to the schedule. In years past, the team’s schedule would be stacked with matches against easier opponents, in part to build confidence, in part to boost the team’s overall record. This year, however, Brownlie does not see any benefit in this scheduling policy.

“The girls get burned out,” said Brownlie. “It’s something I’ve seen in the past two years. By the end of the season they’re just tired of match play. We’re going to change that this year.”

Leading that changing team is a pair of seniors. Co-captain Nicole Chiu has provided much needed upper-class guidance while performing at her highest level ever.

“She’s having one of the best seasons at Cornell, if not playing the best tennis in her career,” said Brownlie.

Fellow senior Piper Lucas has also found success this season, going on a winning streak as of late in the No. 5 singles spot. Her most recent victory was against UMass.

Junior co-captain Kate Sternberg has shown strong promise as well. Despite moving around the singles lineup, she has proven to be a solid doubles contributor. She and junior Laura Leigh Tallent most recently topped UMBC in the No. 2 doubles position.

“We’ve got good leadership on top,” said Brownlie, “but it’s going to be the younger girls who can make the difference, and our sophomore class is perhaps the strongest contributor.”

The sophomore class dominates the singles roster, filling spots one, three, and six. The trio has also combined for several points this season, scoring key wins in the Syracuse and UMass matches.

Topping the list is Akane Kokubo, who has shown extraordinary promise for the team, followed by classmates Erika Takeuchi and Melissa Tu.

Tu has performed exceptionally well this season. Besides her doubles victories, she has racked up wins against Syracuse and UMBC. Tu also scored Cornell’s only win against Western Michigan.

According to Brownlie, all have been performing to expectations and will continue to fortify the team.

A handful of freshmen have also joined the team, and while none currently start, all show great promise.

Brownlie foresees a bright future for Molly Edinson, who is coming off shoulder surgery. Edinson has continued to perform well in match play, adapting to her improvised underarm serve.

Despite its youth, the Red has already enjoyed some success this season, recently defeating local rival Syracuse for the first time in 10 years.

“It was a great match,” said Brownlie. “All the girls played fantastically and it was great to defeat our rivals.”

While all the Ivy matches will contain a strong intensity, specific Ivy rivalries on Cornell’s schedule this season include Columbia (March 28), and Dartmouth (April 11).

In the past, matches have been decided by only one or two points, usually on the doubles side. Recently, however, the team has turned this around by blowing out its opponents. Most notable are the larger margins of victory, such as 8-3, and 8-2.

However, Brownlie is not so overzealous as to hope for an Ivy League title this season, but acknowledges that the team has grown in leaps and bounds.

Archived article by Josh Dormont