March 16, 2011

Both Tennis Teams Head South for Break

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Like many other students, the Cornell men’s and women’s tennis teams are going on a trip during Spring Break. Both squads are traveling to the sixty-degree weather of the Carolinas, and the men will stop in Virginia the weekend before classes resume. The women’s team will take on Charleston, Presbyterian and North Carolina at Wilmington on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The men’s team will face Furman on Monday, UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday, Old Dominion on Friday and Richmond on Sunday.“We have a really mature group, so as much as we want to have fun on Spring Break, the guys are passionate about where we are now and how we’ve been playing,” said men’s head coach Tony Bresky, when asked about his team’s level of excitement.The Red is 15-3 and riding a nine-match win streak. The team has not lost since Feb. 12 at Penn State, and has defeated each of its last six opponents, 7-0. The three victories between the loss in State College, Pa. and the current shutout streak — triumphs over Columbia, Harvard and Binghamton — propelled the Red to its first ECAC Championship in school history. The now No. 46-ranked Red’s No. 40 marking two weeks ago was the highest in school history. A 4-0 road trip could vault Cornell to another record ranking.Senior co-captain Jeremy Feldman envisions a focused four matches. “The main goal is getting outdoors as much as possible. It’s definitely a little bit of a different mentality — be ready and willing to play longer points and stay out there — but the mindset is still to get better every single day.” Coach Bresky attributes much of the Red’s hard-earned success to Feldman and his fellow seniors, Andy Gauthier, Evan Bernstein, Jonathan Jaklitsch, and Mirza Klis.“We have a very senior laden team this year. They’re all so close, so they have set goals, they take charge and lead by example,” Bresky said.Feldman and his teammates are excited to compete outdoors, and hope the four matches will position the Red nicely for the Ivy League season. Its first opponent, Furman, is 2-12 overall but 2-2 in March and could be on an upswing. The Red next faces No. 59 UNC-Wilmington, a 10-1 team with six consecutive dominating victories. Feldman cautions that the Seahawks are better than their ranking, as UNCW lost its only match this season against a ranked opponent, when then-No. 57 North Carolina State beat the Seahawks, 7-0, on Jan. 15. The road trip rounds out against Old Dominion, a 14-3 team with National Championship aspirations that enjoyed its own nine-match win streak earlier this season, and Richmond, a 5-8 team that’s lost both of its March matches, 7-0.“Right now it’s about taking one step at a time towards winning the Ivy Title. Since our freshman year, that’s been the ultimate goal — something we now see as being very obtainable,” Feldman added.The Red finished in the middle of the Ivy standings for much of the past decade, and towards the bottom the previous thirty years. The current senior class has finished second each of the past two years, posting a 5-2 conference mark. A title this year would be the first since 1949.“It’s what our hard work has been going towards this year. Towards being a top-40 team at the end of this year and winning a round or two of NCAAs,” Feldman said.Even a team trying to make Nationals need rest, sometimes. “When we come back we’ll probably take a day or two off,” Bresky said.The Women’s team will have its downtime at the beginning of the trip, with an arrival scheduled for Saturday and no match until Tuesday.“We’re also a very close team and a very young team, so we’re really excited to spend time together off the court,” said senior co-captain Ruxandra Dumitrescu.Team bonding may prove as conducive as playing matches away from Ithaca and training outdoors.“Playing outdoors is much harder and faster than indoors,” said senior co-captain Sinziana Chris. “We should have some tough matches against a variety of schools and players that we don’t see in the northeast, which will be great practice.”Dumitrescu is optimistic about the Spring Break matches. “During the ECAC championships all of our matches were very close. We’ve gotten a lot better and we’ll be able to train a lot in the coming week,” she said.The team is 7-3 at the midway point of the 2011 season.Women’s coach Mike Stevens feels his team has made large strides since January, but emphasizes mental improvement as well. “The biggest aspect we focus on is the mental aspect. Most of the forehands and backhands are the same and often it comes down to who’s more mentally tough,” Stevens said.Stevens expects the Red’s three upcoming matches will offer significant tests before the Ivy League season. Tuesday’s opponent, Charleston, has turned its daunting schedule into a 5-5 mark thus far, and 4-2 in March. C of C is hosting six teams in six days from Mar. 18 to 23, and the Red will arrive rested on day five. Wednesday’s opponent, Presbyterian College, is 8-8 and will be untested for almost two weeks prior to hosting the Red. The teams’s final matchup will be against UNCW, another challenging foe that sports a 13-3 record.Both senior captains and their coach agree that the Red’s success will be defined by their seven Ivy matches, all of which lie between April 1 and April 17. The Red has not finished with a winning conference record since 1996 and has gone 2-5 each of the past three seasons. This season could prove even more challenging as Yale, Brown, Princeton and Harvard are all currently ranked in the top-50.“When I came in [as a freshman], two teams were ranked; now, most of them are,” Chris said, welcoming the challenge. “The teams are so close anyone could beat anyone else on any day.”Chris and Dumitrescu believe the Red is in that “anyone” category.“I think we really have the potential and the talent to be 4-3, even 5-2 — to beat some of those teams we’ve fallen to in the past,” Dumitrescu added. Echoing her coach’s sentiments, Chris highlighted the Red’s growing mental edge, and noted that confidence could be a big factor in its performance over Break. “Several of the teams are a lot more confident/cocky, so it helps us on some level because we can surprise people. But we’re a young team and we have to believe more in ourselves. We’re getting better at that,” she said.

Original Author: Jacob Kose