March 28, 2008

Tennis Opens Ivy Play With Men at Home and Women on Road

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While the weather outside may still be chilly for most, the tennis teams will heat up their seasons as they begin the first of seven matches against Ivy foes. The men (4-8, 0-0 Ivy) will take on the defending Ivy League champion Columbia Lions (5-4, 0-0) at Reis Tennis Center on Saturday. Meanwhile, the women (7-2, 0-0) will travel downstate to the Dick Savitt Tennis Center to serve up against Columbia (2-7, 0-0). Both matches start at noon.
Coming off a string of defeats to top-ranked opponents in Florida over spring break, the men’s team is looking to turn the corner on the season by playing a solid match against the interstate rival. The fact that Columbia is the defending champion appeared to be irrelevant to the men, as the parity in Ivy League tennis runs deep.
“Brown won the Ivy title in 2005, then they finished 1- 6 in 2006. Every team is about the same in the Ivy. It’s more about being confident, prepared, rested. It depends on how is everyone playing at the time,” said senior Weston Nichols, half of the No. 1 seed doubles pair.
Earlier in the fall, Columbia fell to Brown before barely squeaking past Princeton at the ECAC championships. Furthermore, the men’s current four match losing streak is not as bad as it appears, as those matches occurred outdoors against highly ranked opponents.
“We’re in an interesting position,” Nichols added, “We played a lot of really good teams over spring break, but we’re not used to their style. We train to play indoors and do well in the northeast. It’s completely different, and so we can easily forget about the losses as we prepare for Columbia.”
In practice, the men have been fine-tuning approaches to their game. Assistant coach Nick Brunner ’07 has been taking a more hands-on role in player development, which Nichols feels will help Cornell prevail this weekend.
“I think we will win,” Nichols said, “and I think doubles will definitely decide it.”
The women are returning to play in the contiguous United States after spending Spring Break in Honolulu, Hawaii. A successful start to the spring season has built confidence amongst all players and fueled a desire to win the Ivy championship, especially coming close against Penn last season.
“Ivy matches mean a lot to us because we came so close last year,” said singles starter junior Tamara John. “We want to repeat that. We go into these matches wanting to win as a team, and we’re just jumping right into it now.”
The Lion women have struggled as of late, losing its last five decisions. However, with the commencement of Ivy play, the Red women will not let anything affect their mentality.
“Yes, Columbia is struggling,” John said, “But, no matter what, we’re not focusing on well the other teams are playing, we’re focusing on just keeping on doing everything we’re doing in practice. Who cares if they’re not playing well? Hopefully that translates into winning for us, but we’re going to forget about that. We don’t want to psyche ourselves out.”