March 17, 2004

In Search of an Ivy Title

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The men’s tennis team has good reason to be excited about the remainder of this season. After an 11-3 start, including a fourth-place finish at the HEB championships last weekend, the Red, behind head coach Barry Schoonmaker, has aspirations of an Ivy League championship.

“We are really excited about the season,” said senior co-captain Scott Paltrowitz. “We have had a few matches so far, and things have been going really well. We have five seniors on the team and we are all looking forward to seeing how it will play out this spring.”

If the success in the fall season is any indication of what is to come, the seniors will be very pleased with their final campaign. Out of its first 10 matches, the Red has defeated nine of its opponents, with only one of those keeping the match even remotely competitive. The team defeated Rutgers, Binghamton, and Buffalo by a combined score of 20-1. Its only loss in the opening stretch came against Harvard, the 14th ranked team in the nation.

After the red-hot start, the Red traveled to Corpus Christi, Tex. for the HEB championships last weekend. At the tournament, Cornell was paired against some of the elite teams in the nation, but the acclaimed competition did not faze the Red, which finished fourth out of the 12-team field.

Despite its early success, Cornell has remained focused on two goals.

“One of them is to win the Ivy League,” Paltrowitz said. “It will be a tough stretch to pull it off because the league is so strong this year. Since we were freshmen, this has been our ultimate goal. Our second goal is to make the NCAA tournament. I don’t think Cornell men’s tennis has ever done that.”

Right now, Cornell is ranked 68th in the nation and would have to lower its rankings into at least the lower fifties in order to receive an at-large bid for the tournament. But it will have plenty of opportunities. Cornell has a much tougher schedule this spring, as it will compete against several highly ranked teams.

So far this season, the Red has relied upon its senior leadership, an intangible asset that should come in handy as it heads into its Ivy League schedule. The team is led by its five upperclassmen, including senior co-captains Paltrowitz and Zach Gallin. Gallin is the No. 1 singles player for the Red, as well as half of the No. 1 senior doubles tandem of himself and partner Scott Spencer.

In addition to strength at the top, the Red relies upon the bottom of its lineup as well. Already this season, there have been several times when the Red has lost the pairing at No. 1 doubles or No.1 singles and has come back to win the match, dominating the lower part of the draw.

The way the Red has performed thus far, there is very good reason to have high hopes for this season and beyond. Considering where it has come from, Paltrowitz is very pleased with the high level Cornell men’s tennis has already reached.

“The program has grown tremendously since I came to Cornell,” said Paltrowitz. “Six or seven years ago, we were at the bottom of the Ivy League. We were competing with schools that we now blow away. A lot of it has to do with Coach Schoonmaker, who has been recruiting better and better. The team has far surpassed where we were as freshman.”

Before the meet against St. Bonaventure two weeks ago, Scott Spencer may have said it best.

“This is the best team I have been on since I have been at Cornell.”

Archived article by Bryan Pepper