March 8, 2010

Men’s Tennis Succumbs to Ivy League Powerhouse Columbia at Home

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During every sports season there comes a time when a team must prove itself against a fierce conference rival. In a matchup of the Ivy League’s most prominent men’s tennis program, it was the Columbia Lions (7-3, 1-0 Ivy) that stormed into the Reis Tennis Center and earned an impressive 6-1 victory over Cornell. The Red (7-4, 0-1 Ivy) took the loss in its first Ivy match of the season, after enjoying a strong period of non-conference play over the past two months. The men’s squad was able to bounce back from the loss only a few hours later, earning a dominating victory over St. John’s, 6-1.

“We played like we always do … Cornell plays great doubles, and we’re just a tough blue collar team,” said head coach David Geatz.

Lion Jon Wong defeated junior Jon Jaklitsch in No. 1 singles, 6-4, 7-6, while junior Andy Gauthierr –– Cornell’s No. 2 player –– fell to Mihai Nichifor in a highly-contested three-setter, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6.

“Columbia’s the match we’ve been looking forward to playing all year, so it was tough to lose to them,” Jakltisch said. “In our meeting after the game, we rationalized that Harvard has already beaten Columbia, and we beat Harvard so we can still control our own destiny.”

Junior Jeremy Feldman and senior Jon Fife also came up a little bit short in their singles matches. Feldman was saddled with a tough loss, 6-7, 7-5, 10-6, to Haig Schneiderman, while Rajeev Deb-Sen was able to hold off Fife in a close match, 6-7, 6-3, 11-9.

Junior Mirza Klis and senior Ashish Bhandari rounded out the singles competition for the Red, with both players taking a loss in straight sets.

“You have to win close matches to win [the event], and I was impressed with Columbia and how they came back after we won all the doubles matches,” Geatz said.

As Geatz alluded, the doubles competition went far better for the Red, who won the No. 1 match with a strong performance from Gauthier and Feldman. The Cornell duo earned a close 9-8 victory over Wong and Nichifor, while Fife and sophomore Evan Bernstein earned a win in third doubles by the same score. Jaklitsch and Klis rounded out the Red’s strong day in doubles with an 8-5 win over the Lions.

“Columbia is one of the best teams in the Ivy League. They won it last year and returned a lot of their top players,” Geatz said.

Needless to say, things went much better for the Red in its return to the courts only a few hours removed from the tough Columbia loss. St. John’s (2-5), who had been in a free fall for the better part of the last month, continued to struggle as the men’s squad took full advantage of the Red Storm’s flawed play. This was not the first time these two teams have met this season, as this was a rematch of the Red’s 7-0 drubbing of St. John’s back in February at the Ivy Challenge in New Haven, Conn. In total, Cornell earned victories in eight of the nine matches played against the Johnnies, highlighted by another sweep of the doubles competition.

Gauthier held his opponent at four and four in his straight set victory, while Jaklitsch was equally impressive in his singles win, 6-4, 6-1. Feldman and Fife also earned straight set victories, and Bernstein successfully battled back after losing the first set, 6-2, to close out his match by winning the final two sets, 6-2, 6-2. The lone loss for the Red in the singles bracket came at the expense of Bhandari, who fell in consecutive sets, 6-2, 6-3.

Geatz opted to throw out the same three doubles teams that brought so much success earlier against Columbia, which proved to be the right move as the Red swept the doubles competition once again.

“That was a really dangerous match because no one wants to go out and play after a loss like [we had against Columbia],” Jaklitsch said.

Meanwhile, the women’s team was able to pull off a nice comeback of its own, holding on for a 4-3 victory over Marquette (10-7) on Saturday. Coming off the win, the Red (4-4) will have to immediately turn its attention to today’s match-up with Syracuse (10-2).

After having a week off, the women’s squad picked up right where it left off, earning a close, 4-3, win over Marquette, who had defeated No. 68 Binghamton in the process of compiling 10 wins on the season. As usual, freshmen standouts Christine Ordway and Kristin Lim led the way with victories in first and second singles, respectively. Ordway was able to pull off a straight-set victory, 6-1, 6-3, while Lim battled back to earn a hard fought, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, three-set win.

“Christine Ordway is playing unbelievably … she and [Lim] have really made great strides,” Geatz said of his budding stars.

Freshman Sarah O’Neil and senior Susan Sullivan also earned straight set victories, however senior Natalia Sanchez and junior Ruxandra Dumitrescu both wound up on the losing side of their singles matches, with both players failing to win a set.

O’Neil and Ordway continued their success in the doubles bracket, where they teamed up to defeat the team of Fischer and Wilson, 8-5, for the Red’s only doubles win. The Sanchez/Sullivan duo and Lim/Dumitrescu pairing both lost their matches; however, after the final points were tallied the Red still remained on top by the aforementioned 4-3 final score.

Today’s meeting with Syracuse should be another important test of whether the women’s squad has what it takes to compete at a very high level. In what will be the first match-up of these two teams since Syracuse defeated Cornell, 4-3, a little over a year ago, the Red will look to improve upon its lackluster 6-13 record against the Orange.

“Syracuse is a great team … they play a very aggressive style, and will be one of the better teams we play all year,” Geatz said.

As has been the case throughout much of the season, Ordway and Lim are expected to have a large impact on the results of today’s matches as they have throughout much of the season. A win against the Orange would go a long way towards making the women’s team a serious contender for an Ivy League title.

“This year we’re a dangerous team, but I think next year’s team will be a real contender,” Geatz said. “Right now if you asked me I’d say we’re not ready to win the title yet, but if we beat Syracuse than we’re definitely an Ivy League contender.”

Original Author: Evan Rich