It’s Friday, and Rebecca Black has been kind enough to tell us all what that means: “Everybody’s looking forward to the weekend, weekend … Fun, fun, fun, fun, Looking forward to the weekend.” While most Cornell students have been anticipating this weekend for about five days, the men’s and women’s tennis teams have had April 1 circled on their calendars since September. Each squad’s opening match of the 2011 Ivy League season begins this afternoon — against Harvard. The women are set to take the courts at the Reis Tennis Center at 1:30 p.m., while the men will begin their weekend at 2:00 p.m. in Cambridge, Mass.
“We’ve played a tough road schedule, taking on nationally ranked teams. Playing in hostile environments on someone else’s court is rigorous and demanding, but hopefully the work we’ve put in will pay off,” said men’s head coach Tony Bresky, when asked about his team’s preparation.
The Red (17-4) ranks No. 49 nationally, having won eleven of its past twelve matches. The only loss came against No. 46 UNC Wilmington on the Red’s Spring Break road trip, which featured a win over Furman, 5-2, and a thrilling comeback victory over Old Dominion, 4-3. With valuable road experience against ranked opponents, the Red will now have the opportunity to take on the No. 70 ranked Crimson.
“We’ve competed on the road as much or more than most teams in the country, certainly more than Ivy teams. There’ll be no excuses win or lose, but we’ll be ready,” Bresky said.
The Red defeated Harvard, 5-2, en route to its ECAC indoor championship in February, but the Crimson (11-7) has posted a 6-2 mark since the championships, including wins in the team’s last four matches.
Senior tri-captain Jeremy Feldman expects a revitalized Harvard team across the net.
“This will be a completely different match,” he said. “[Harvard] moved some guys around in the lineup so it’ll be high intensity and could play a pivotal role in who wins the Ivy title.”
“I’m pretty sure Harvard has a chip on their shoulders against us,” added senior tri-captain Andy Gauthier. “We beat them at home last year as well, so there definitely coming at us with everything they have.”
Gauthier admits that readjusting to the indoor game against Harvard on Friday and No. 74 ranked Dartmouth on Saturday will be a factor, but trusts the Red’s experience.
“We have a deep enough team where even if one or two guys have an off day I feel we can still succeed as a team … When this time of the year comes I feel like we’re ready,” Gauthier explained.
The Red will play each Ivy opponent only once, but understands that every match and every point holds equal importance. Gauthier tempered his team’s excitement with the pragmatism of a senior tri-captain.
“Everyone’s pretty even in the Ivies,” he said. “Pretty much all the teams can beat each other on any given day, so if we win both or we lose both, anything can happen. You don’t see that in other conferences.”
Interestingly, Bresky sees this weekend’s doubles competition looming larger than usual during the Ivy season.
“Even though doubles is one point it seems to be a momentum swinger,” Feldman said, echoing his coach’s thoughts. “There’s a lot more energy and enthusiasm that goes into it — everyone’s really engaged together. Typically when we’re playing good doubles everyone feels confident heading into their singles matches. The last couple matches we haven’t won the doubles point and it hasn’t gone on our way, but now if we don’t get the point we’re all the more focused.”
The women’s team gained valuable experience during its Spring Break matches against Charleston, Presbyterian and UNC Wilmington, at times battling opponents in winds up to forty m.p.h. The Red (8-5) won its second outdoor match of the season against Presbyterian.
“You definitely have to adjust your game just to get the ball in the court, but it’s even better than that the matches were tough — we’re more prepared for ivies now,” said senior tri-captain Ruxandra Dumitrescu.
Senior tri-captain Sinziana Chis is also confident the team’s challenging Spring Break was a productive test.
“We lost two of three but they were ranked teams on their turf outdoors, so we had a lot against us but we fought really hard. This is what we train for,” she said.
Head coach Mike Stevens feels the team is ready to begin its grueling stretch of seven Ivy matches in 17 days.
“We’ll be pumped for all seven league matches and we’ll take one at a time. Every match is a big match,” he added.
Speaking from four years of experience, Chis welcomes the Harvard match, no matter the outcome.
“Harvard will definitely set the tone,” she said. “If we win we’ll be confident, but if we lose it will still motivate us a long as we have a great attitude.”
The Red played Harvard at the ECAC indoor championships in February and lost, 6-1, but the No. 54 ranked Crimson (5-6) has lost three of its last five matches. Both Stevens and his captains give little credence to the ECAC match, however, since both teams have changed their lineups and had a chance to get out any early season jitters. The Red has not played Dartmouth (8-7) since last year’s Ivy season ended.
As for the Red’s chances in the opening matches this weekend, Dumitrescu added a bit of reverse psychology to the equation.
“These teams may overlook us and not take us as seriously as they should, thinking it might be an easy match,” she explained. “We’re very confident, and if we’re able to pull it out, great, but there are still five more matches. We don’t have the pressure that the other teams have.”
Dumitrescu is also excited for the team’s freshmen to experience their first in-conference matches.
“It’s always nice playing at home, especially since we have a young team,” she said. “A lot of girls will be playing their first Ivy matches so with the little things like the lighting, the elements, all they have to worry about is playing their game.”
Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth and Penn are the only four unranked Ivy teams heading into conference play; Brown, Harvard, Princeton and Yale are all ranked in the nation’s Top-75. Despite the Red’s underdog status, Dumitrescu is confident that her team’s chemistry can overcome any ranking.
“We all really believe in the team,” she said. “If a team is technically better than us in ranking it all comes down to conditions, whose playing well that day, and how confident we are. As long as we play hard we’ll be happy with each other and our performance.”
Original Author: Jacob Kose