October 23, 2008

Tennis Preps for Fall's End

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The all-around solid play of the men’s tennis team this fall culminates in the Cornell Fall Indoor Invitational next week. The Red had a mixed bag of results over the weekend at the ITA Northeast Regionals, where the edge of some disappointing losses was taken off by the success of sophomore Andy Gauthier in reaching the finals of the singles consolation bracket.
“We need someone to step up, kick some tail,” said head coach David Geatz. “We have three or four guys that are just a hair away from being a No. 1 guy in the Ivy League. It will be interesting to see if someone can step up.”
“[The Cornell Fall Indoor Invitational is] our final tournament of the fall and our goal is to win every event, Flight A and B singles as well as doubles,” added junior Ashish Bhandari, outlining the team’s aspirations. “We were close in the Outdoor Invitational [Sept. 12-14], so we think we can get it done this time.”
The Red’s upcoming invitational will serve as both an end and a beginning — it signals the end of a fall tuneup season in which the deep squad has shown signs of improvement and hints of future success. The players and head coach have noticed a strong work ethic and commitment this fall.
“Guys have worked all fall season long and we have made important strides,” Geatz said. “We are starting to close the gap with other top Ivy League schools.”
The Cornell Invitational is also the last occasion the Cornell players will have to make their mark in match play against non-conference foes, such as Binghamton, Colgate, Army and Navy. Geatz will use this tournament to gauge his team’s strengths and weaknesses heading into a three-month break before their next match.
“This tournament is an opportunity for our players to step up, to prove they belong in the starting lineup,” Geatz said.
The event is not, however, only about getting a feel for the team and evaluating players. The Red has expectations and ambitions about competing in front of a home crowd.
“The Indoor Invitational is a nice way to cap off the fall,” said senior co-captain Kyle Doppelt. “It’s the last tournament of the fall season, and it’s nice to leave with a win. In past years it has gotten much stronger. We expect pretty tough competition, but that being said we expect to bring home a lot of titles.”
Marist, Duquesne and Buffalo round out the competition, which Geatz also mentioned as being tougher than in past years. The tournament field holds a bit of intrigue for the Red, as it will face players from a Binghamton squad that defeated Cornell for the first time ever last spring.
“Of all the teams coming,” Bhandari said, “everyone remembers that Binghamton beat us last year. So we’re trying to get them back for that.”
Ultimately, the invitational marks the beginning of a winter layoff, when the Red will prepare mentally and physically for the Ivy League season in the spring. Cornell will spend the offseason assessing where it needs to be and trying to get there in time for the regular season.
“We’ve definitely established ourselves as the deepest team in the Ivy League,” Doppelt said, “No team has eight or ten guys who are so good and evenly matched, which is an asset because a win at No. 1 [singles] counts as much as a win at No. 6 [singles].”