Ancient Eight play is now underway for the men’s and women’s tennis teams, as both squads faced Columbia in the Red’s Ivy openers this past weekend. The men’s team dropped the majority of its matches to fall behind, 3-4. The loss, which puts the men 9-4 for the season, halted a six-game winning streak for the Red. Meanwhile, the women’s team won at home, 6-1, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Ithaca to improve to an overall record of 5-9. [img_assist|nid=36404|title=At the ready|desc=Junior Natalia Sanchez, playing in the No. 1 spot against Columbia on Saturday, was one of six team members to win their matches over the course of the dual match.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
In New York, the Lions (11-4) took the men’s doubles’ point by defeating all three Red pairs to lead off Saturday. In singles action, sophomore Jonathan Jaklitsch impressed at the No. 1 position by seizing a tight first set from Jon Wong, 7-6. Wong struck back, winning the second set 6-2, before Jaklitsch’s third set pummeling. The decisive, 6-0, victory secured the Red’s initial win of the day.
After a 6-2 win in first set and a narrow, 6-7, loss in the second, sophomore Jeremy Feldmen, No. 4, skirted past Columbia’s Ekin Sezgen, 1-0, for the win in the rubber match. Cornell senior Marc Asch fended off Rajeev Deb-Sen in the No. 6 spot with two convincing, 6-4 victories. However, the Red’s three singles wins were not enough to tame the Lions. Columbia overpowered Cornell in the No. 2, No. 3, and No. 5 singles games by limiting the Red to just two sets.
“Columbia is the best in the Ivy League right now,” said sophomore Jonathan Jaklitsch. “The No. 1 and No. 2 players for Columbia are pretty equal and they are arguably two of the strongest guys in the league. It is tough to start out against a team with depth like that.”
The Lions’ No. 1, Jon Wong, and No. 2, Bogdan Borta, are ranked second and third, respectively, in the northeast after finishing at the top in the ITA Regional Tournament at Yale last fall.
Despite the unfavorable outcome, the team looks to remain positive.
“We came into the weekend with a lot of confidence. All of our losses have been 3-4, which means we could be undefeated at this point,” Jaklitsch said. “We knew Columbia would be good. Our goal was to win a doubles match, but Columbia’s doubles improved immensely and that surprised us.”
While Columbia’s playing surface seemed to give Jaklitsch an advantage, other Cornell players might have attributed their demise to the new courts.
“Their surface was really fast last year,” Jaklitsch said. “I hated it. But they re-did them and, personally, I thought that they helped me out. Some of our guys had difficulty finding the ball because it was considerably slower.”
Nevertheless, the Red sophomore did not feel that the courts were a huge factor in the end. “The loss is out of our hands now,” Jaklitsch said, “I believe we have the potential to win all of the matches, but when it comes down to a 4-3 score, it can really go either way.”
Back in Ithaca, the women’s team, which was greeted by temperatures in the 60s and clear skies Saturday morning, played outdoors for the first time all season.
“This almost never happens given the unpredictable weather here. We usually don’t get outside until mid-April, when Ivy play ends,” said sophomore Ruxandra Dumitrescu, who played in the No. 6 spot for the Red. “The rule is that if it is over 55 degrees and it isn’t raining, you play outside. We weren’t exactly prepared for this, but we kept to the game plan and everyone adjusted well to the change.”
Like most of Cornell’s students on campus this weekend, the women’s tennis team enjoyed the warm weather — and with plenty of success to prove it. The Red swept the doubles’ matches and only dropped one game in the, 6-1, landslide. All six Cornell players contributed with wins in doubles, singles, or both.
Junior No. 1 Natalia Sanchez played just one set against the Lions’ Nicole Stanziola, who was retired quickly for a 6-2 Red triumph. In the No. 2 match, Freshman Stephanie Kent notched her first Ivy victory with 6-2 and 6-4 wins. Senior Elizabeth Googe fired from the No. 3 position to put her opponent away, 6-3, 6-4. Despite suffering a knee injury, which has kept her off the court since just recently, Sophomore No. 5 Sinziana Chis handled Columbia’s Carling Donovan, 6-2, 6-1. Dumitrescu, another Red player in recovery with wrist tendonitis and a bad shoulder, also registered dual wins, 6-4 and 6-2.
Marlena Hall of Columbia gave Cornell its sole loss of the afternoon. In the No. 4 game, Hall won the first set, 6-4, over senior captain Shayna Miller. But Miller fought right back, defeating Hall, 6-4, to even the score. Hall answered in the tiebreaking set with a second 6-4 win.
“We were very determined and focused. I think we put it all out there and gave our best,” Dumitrescu said, “Earlier in the season we had six back-to-back losses, which caused us to develop a new plan of attack. So far, it has worked out and we have definitely learned from our mistakes.”
Cornell’s new strategy included an array of different match-ups in attempt to produce wins doubles’ play. “Coach switched us up about a week ago. The doubles’ point is crucial and it was important to find a good mix,” Dumitrescu said, “Even though we have not had a lot of time to play with our new partners, they all seem like natural fits.”
Already more than halfway through its seasons, the men’s and women’s squads are motivated to make the most of its Ivy League contests.
“Unfortunately, we can’t play each Ivy team twice, which makes each game significant. It forces you to really hone in on the three hours of play. Falling 3-4 in a close match is especially tough,” Dumitrescu said.