This weekend, the men’s and women’s tennis teams close out their seasons with final matches against Ivy League rivals Penn and Princeton. In a pair of penultimate showdowns, the men (11-8, 2-3 Ivy) host No. 50 Penn this afternoon, while the women (8-6, 2-3 Ivy) play the No. 43 Quakers in Philadelphia. Sunday, the roles reverse, with the men traveling to Princeton as the women play at home. Because there is no postseason Ivy League tournament, these will be the last League tournament, these will be the last matches for seniors Brett McKeon, Mollie Edinson and Liying Wang.
For both the men and women, the Penn matches this afternoon represent the tougher challenges of the weekend.
The Penn men are the highest ranked in the Ivy League, and they boast the highest ranked singles player in the Ivy League in Jason Pinksy. However, head coach Barry Schoonmaker is not intimidated.
“Can we beat them? Oh, definitely,” Schoonmaker said. “They’re good, but they’re really no better than Columbia, Harvard, Brown, or Yale … everybody in the league is so close to each other, it just comes down to the close points. With one exception, any team in this league can beat any other team on any given day.”
The top doubles team match featuring junior Nick Brunner and Josh Raff will be of special significance for the Cornell men today. With two wins against Penn and Princeton, the top doubles team may qualify for the NCAA championships.
For that to happen, Brunner and Raff (4-1 Ivy) would have to finish the season as the first or second ranked team in the northeast region.
“They don’t come out with the regional rankings until the end of the season. [Brunner and Raff] were No. 1 until they lost to Harvard, so now they’re probably second,” Schoonmaker said. “If they win out this weekend, they’ll certainly be in good shape to make it to the NCAAs. But Penn’s very good – it’s going to be a tough match.”
At the same time the men play in Ithaca this afternoon, the Cornell women face No. 43 Penn in Philadelphia. Head coach Laura Glitz commented on the challenge.
“Penn has only lost to [No. 18] Harvard [in Ivy league play] so far this year, so they’re definitely a tough team,” Glitz said. “But as I told my girls, they’re not the same team they were last year. They’re young, talented, but a little up and down. If we can play like we did against Brown, we have a shot.”
“A win is definitely within reach,” said Edinson, Cornell’s top singles player. “But we’re going to have to go out and want it more than they do.”
On Sunday, both teams finish their seasons with matches against Princeton.
Schoonmaker reflected on his team’s season to date.
“We’ve had a pretty good season so far,” Schoonmaker said. “We beat Old Dominion and we beat Harvard for the first time in 40-some years. … But if we were to lose against Penn and Princeton this weekend, I think that’d be a disappointment. This is a tough conference, but I’d like to think we can get more than two wins. If we can finish with wins [over Penn and Princeton], I think that’d make this a great season.”
Schoonmaker also complimented McKeon, Cornell’s top singles player, who will be playing in his final match on Sunday.
“Brett’s been a rock for us for four years. He’s always in great shape, he’s probably the strongest guy on the team and he never goes half speed in practice. He always gives his best effort, and he’ll be tough to lose.”
Glitz was quick to praise the leadership of her two senior captains, Edinson and Wang.
“They’ve both contributed a lot to this program. They’re great captains – a lot of other coaches have remarked to me about [Liying’s] attitude and competitiveness. For their sake, I hope we go out with a win.”
Wang seemed more certain than her coach.
“We have a shot against Penn, and we will definitely beat Princeton,” Wang said. “I guarantee that.”
Archived article by Stephen Davis
Sun Staff Writer