The men’s and women’s tennis teams have long awaited their Ivy League season openers against Columbia, and they are ready to tame the Lions. Both matches will be played tomorrow at noon, but the women will host Columbia at the Reis Tennis Center while the men will travel to the Dick Savitt Tennis Center in New York City.
Heading into Ivy play, the women’s team has posted a non-league record of 7-2, with its only losses coming to the highly ranked No. 27 Arizona State and No. 36 Arizona over spring break. The women rebounded, however, with a 5-2 win over Northern Arizona.
“One of the things I told the girls right before we played Northern Arizona was that we’re not going to play any more teams of Arizona or Arizona State caliber,” said women’s head coach Laura Glitz. “Then everyone felt less stressed out, and the other teams seemed easier in comparison. Everybody’s hitting the ball really well right now, and things are in place for us to do well in the Ivies.”
According to senior co-captain Nisha Suda, whose sister Nina is a sophomore player for Columbia, the Lions did not have such a positive training trip.
“They were in Texas and their trip got rained out, so they didn’t get as much practice as we did,” Suda said. “I just talked to my sister, and their new recruit is injured along with a lot of other people. They’re not as strong as we are as a team on the court in general. But it’s a group of really talented girls, and they’ll put up a good fight.”
The Columbia women have a 3-4 record thus far, and were swept, 7-0, by Rice in their last match. They also lost by a score of 4-3 to Army, a team whom the Red defeated 5-2, but Glitz knows not to underestimate the Lions.
“They’re a pretty talented team, but they haven’t been doing well,” Glitz said. “Yet when they play us, they always seem to play well. We have to be ready for anything.”
“Last year we gave them a run for their money,” Suda said of the Red’s 5-2 loss to the Lions last season. “This year we’ve worked a lot on changing what caused us to lose. I feel like we want it more. No team in the Ivy League is going to be that tough.”
The women are also glad that they have home-court advantage for their season opener.
“I think the last time we played [Columbia] at home we beat them,” Suda said. “We’ll have our fans and everything, plus two of our old captains will be coming up to watch. That extra support really pumps us up to get on the court. We worked all year really for these next seven matches. Laura’s given us a great opportunity to play different teams, and we’ve done lots of fitness training.”
“We’ve done all the preparation, and we’re ready,” Glitz said. “Now it’s time to play.”
The men’s team—which has earned a solid 13-3 non-league record so far, including a tough 4-3 win over Santa Clara over spring break—is ready to take on Columbia as well.
Columbia (9-3) is coming off a 7-0 sweep of St. Joseph’s. The Lions were 4-3 Ivy last year, beating Cornell, 5-2, along the way.
The Red plans to stick with its winning doubles lineup of senior tri-captains Nick Brunner and Josh Raff at No. 1, senior tri-captain Dan Brous and junior Rory Heggie at No. 2, and sophomore Josh Goldstein and junior Weston Nichols at No. 3. Brunner, Raff, Brous, and Heggie will play first through fourth singles, respectively, while head coach Barry Schoonmaker is still deciding who will play the last two singles matches.
“I’m not sure if Columbia’s stronger than they were last year,” said sophomore Peter Kung. “I know that one of the guys who played No. 3 or No. 4 last year isn’t playing because he’s been on a slump. That might help us in the lower singles matches. I think our team is deeper than theirs, and hopefully we’ll use that as a strength.”
According to Kung, the team’s training trip in California, during which the Red won 4-of-5 matches, will help it in its Ivy opener.
“We had a really good warm-up coming into this match,” Kung said. “We’ve a very mentally strong team with good team spirit. We can really fight. Even against Fresno State when we lost, it showed that we can come up with good play. We’ve got experience playing close matches, and we can use that experience to figure out ways to win.”