With a forecast of sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70’s for the next couple of days, it appears that spring has arrived just in time for the start of the Ivy League tennis season.
While the men’s tennis team opened conference play with a loss to Columbia back on March 6th, the women’s team waited until Wednesday to begin its league schedule. The women’s patience paid off, as Cornell narrowly defeated Columbia at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center in New York City to earn its seventh consecutive victory and improve to 11-5 on the season.
Both the men’s and women’s teams will be back in action this afternoon, when the men host Dartmouth at the Reis Tennis Center at 2 p.m. and the women travel to Hanover, N.H., to face off against the Big Green on its home court.
Despite dropping its first three singles matches on Wednesday, the women’s team rallied around the great play of seniors Natalia Sanchez and Susan Sullivan and junior Ruxandra Dumitrescu to earn the win against the Tigers (9-8, 0-1 Ivy), 4-3. The victory was the Red’s (11-5, 1-0 Ivy) first of the Ivy League season, and is the first step in a long road for the Red as the team tries to win its first ever conference championship.
“Columbia is a much improved team and our girls played well,” said head coach David Geatz. “I was really proud of the effort that they put out.”
“[The win] helps the freshmen understand the importance of the Ivy League,” Sanchez said. “They saw us carrying the team and they realized that you have to stay tough for the entire match.”
After facing Dartmouth, Cornell will travel to Cambridge, Mass. for a rematch against Harvard (8-6, 0-0 Ivy). In the first match between the two teams at the 2010 ECAC Division I Indoor Tennis Championship, the Crimson was able to come out on top, winning five of the six singles matches and two of the three doubles matches to earn a 6-1 victory.
“I think with Harvard we have to come out very strongly in the doubles points,” Sanchez said. “If we come out strong and with the right attitude, we can definitely beat Harvard.”
As the women’s team is looking to remain undefeated in the Ivy League this weekend, the men’s team will still be searching for its first conference victory of the season.
The men’s team began Ivy League play back on March 6th with a disappointing loss to Columbia, 6-1. The match, which was more competitive than the scoreboard would later show, was ultimately decided in singles play, as the Red (13-6, 0-1 Ivy) dropped three third-set tiebreakers to the Tigers after winning the doubles point.
“This team can win, but we have to play well. We can’t have any injuries and we have to win close matches,” Geatz said. “We lost to Columbia because we didn’t win the close ones.”
Cornell will have to rebound from the loss and win its final six Ivy League matches if it wants a realistic shot at winning its first ever conference title this season.
“We still think we are in the position to win the Ivy League title,” Fife said. “There is a decent chance that Columbia could lose to Harvard (9-8, 0-0) and that is what we are hoping for.”
Of course, if Harvard defeats Columbia next week would be of little importance to Cornell if the Red loses to the Crimson this weekend. But before Cornell begins to think about its big date with Harvard on Saturday, it must first focus on picking up its first conference victory against Dartmouth (8-3, 0-0 Ivy) this afternoon.
“Each [Ivy League] team is so good that you can’t really overlook anyone. We have to pretend that each match is for the title,” Fife said. “Against Dartmouth it’s really important that we set the tone for the rest of the season because we need to play as if our backs are against the wall to give ourselves a chance to win a title.”
Juniors Andy Gauthier and Jon Jaklitsch will alternate between the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots this weekend, with one playing No. 1 against Dartmouth and the other playing No. 1 against Harvard. According to Fife, however, the real key to the Red’s success will be its doubles play.
“The doubles points are really important, especially against Harvard,” said Fife. “It’s really going to set the tone for that match because it’s so tough to win four out of six singles games against anyone that’s around your level.”
The men’s squad, will play today at 2 p.m. at the Reis Tennis Center. Saturday’s match against Harvard is scheduled to begin at the same time.
Original Author: Dan Froats