On Saturday, the Cornell men’s tennis team made history by winning the first outright Ivy League title in program history. Had the team not won, the Red would have only held a share of the title with Princeton; however, No. 40-ranked Cornell beat defending champion Columbia, 6-1, on Saturday en route to sole possession of the Ivy League championship.
“We all had a pretty good week of practice leading up to the match because we knew that by winning this we could [earn] the title outright instead of sharing it with Princeton. That motivated a lot of guys even though we had already won the NCAA seed,” said senior tri-captain Jeremy Feldman. “We won all three doubles matches. Everyone came out firing in the singles — it just seemed like everything was going our way [on Saturday]. Everyone played very confident and the results show it. This was our first time [winning by a score of] 6-1 in the conference this year — [it was] a pretty decisive victory.”
Head coach Tony Bresky noted that this was one of the team’s strongest victories of the season.
“[We] played one of our best matches of the season,” Bresky said. “I think it’s just a reflection of our preparation and the amount of hard work, dedication and determination the guys have put in … The guys have worked hard throughout. As the year has progressed, you can see how fit, how mentally tough and how ready to come out to play we’ve been.”
Something the team recognizes as important in all of its matches is winning the doubles point.
“We came out and won all three doubles matches,” said senior tri-captain Andy Gauthier. “We won at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, then third doubles was really close. [Columbia] ended up winning a really close match, which I think is a good thing because even though the doubles point was decided already, it kept the momentum going.”
“We came out really strong on the doubles and got off to a great start, which helps a lot,” Bresky added. “It always helps to win the doubles point — we have won 26 matches this season and haven’t lost a single one where we won the doubles point.”
However, Bresky still credits most of the victory to the team effort and all the hard work his squad has done over the course of the long season.
“[Columbia] came out a lot more ready and focused, but I think that our guys were able to match their intensity and energy. Eventually, our play and mental fitness took over,” Bresky said.
“Going 7-0 in the Ivies … was our goal, and we ended up doing it, so it was a good time,” Gauthier said of the team’s domination of its Ancient Eight opponents.
As such it is little surprise that the team is ecstatic about going down in the history books for earning the first-ever Ivy League title for the Cornell men’s tennis program.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling,” Bresky said. “The guys have worked hard not only this year, but throughout their careers. We have seniors in the lineup and they’ve put a lot of time into this. It was our goal from the beginning, as it will be [next] year. As I always say to the guys, ‘You get what you deserve’ — and I think they really deserve this. It’s really rewarding and really exciting to win.”
“[This is] a special group of guys. I am really happy for them and excited they could accomplish this,” he added.
For some of the team, victory has not yet sunk in.
“I definitely know that it feels like we’ve done something special, but I don’t know exactly at what point I’m going to be able to appreciate it because I feel like we are still in the midst of our season,” Feldman said. “I haven’t really taken a second to step back and reflect on what we have accomplished, but it’s definitely something I think is very special. It’s extremely important to the seniors and the team as a whole and even reaching forward to the entire coaching staff, athletic department and everyone that supported the team.”
Although the seniors will be graduating in May, they are still looking out for the future of the team.
“[Winning the Ivy title] is great for all of us — it’s great for the program and it will really help recruiting for the next few years,” Gauthier said. “I’m really happy about it.”
Though the Red has a few weeks to prepare before the NCAA tournament begins, the squad will not have a lot of time to relax in that period.
“I think, and coach thinks, that we can definitely get a level better by the time NCAAs come around,” Gauthier noted. “We have a lot of time for everyone to work on something they need to work on — we have a chance at getting a lot better.”
In advance of the selection announcements for the tournament, the team’s goal is to train hard and prove itself as a force to be reckoned with in the NCAAs.
“Hopefully we can go in playing our best tennis — that’s certainly our goal,” Bresky said. “We hope we can have a good run in the tournament. The guys don’t see this as the end of the season. They are really excited to go play and they are really confident. We will be excited to see where we go play, and how our game compares to the competition.”
Cornell will find out who it is playing in the NCAAs when the brackets are announced next Tuesday — two weeks before the tournament is scheduled to begin.
“I think a lot of teams need to watch out for us,” Feldman said. “I think we are a really dangerous team.”
Original Author: Dani Abada