October 12, 2011

W. TENNIS | O’Neil Leads Red at USTA Invitational

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Playing on the same surfaces as  greats like the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova, the Cornell women’s tennis team traveled to Flushing, N.Y. this weekend to play the USTA Collegiate Invitational at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The Red entered the weekend ready for the big stage and looking forward to playing a wide array of competition, including several opponents that it does not normally meet with in the regular season. Facing off against 15 other teams, Cornell looked to achieve two primary goals — playing hard and having fun.

“It’s the coolest place we play all year,” explained junior Sarah O’Neil. “You’ll be playing on the court and you look up and Arthur Ashe Stadium is right there. It’s neat. You go there a month and a half ago and some of the best players in the world are playing there. It’s the best tournament of the year for me. I love it.”

O’Neil provided a strong showing at the tournament. She racked up a win for the Red against Charleston Southern junior Marrija Dzakovic, 6-1, 6-3 and then earned a victory in a match with Army sophomore Jamila Paul in the semifinals, 1-6, 6-4, 10-7, on Sunday to advance to the B Singles West consolation final on Monday.

The doubles team of freshmen Rosemary Li and Sara Perelman reached the C Doubles semifinals after Saturday’s action; however, the duo lost to Princeton sophomore Caitlin Bartlett and freshman Joan Cannon, 9-7.

“Every match was extremely close and it shows that you are right there with all the other teams,” Perelman said. “It shows that on any given day, anyone can beat anyone.”

Freshman Courtney Malinchak fell short of earning a victory for the Red in early competition, losing to Bartlett in G Singles, 6-4, 6-2. Malinchak proceeded to drop a two-set decision, 6-3, 6-2, to second-seeded senior Samantha Gridley of Harvard on Sunday to end her play in the tournament.

Although the Red returned home early, the weekend was still a success for the team, the players noted. Between a high level of competition and the chance to play at a prestigious venue, the women seemed extremely pleased with their experience at the tournament, returning home with an eye toward the rest of the season. With a young team on the courts, the Red is motivated to work hard and prepare for the upcoming spring season with the hopes of an Ivy League championship title, according to Perelman and O’Neil.

“It just really motivates us because it shows us that our hard work has paid off and that with more hard work in the spring we can really beat any team out there,” she explained.

“Ultimately we want the Ivy League title … It’s what we always have our eye on,” O’Neil added.

Original Author: Haley Velasco