Back in action after the postponement of its Feb. 10 game, the men’s tennis team was unstoppable last weekend en route to claiming the ECAC indoor tennis championship at Reis Tennis Center. The Red (7-1) had previously won this prestigious title two seasons ago.
The men entered this year’s tournament seeded fourth and ranked No. 73 in the nation. The Red eventually topped the number one and two seeds to claim victory. Despite their lower rank, junior tri-captain Venkat Iyer said the men never considered themselves underdogs.
“When we go into every match, we’re pretty confident,” he said. “We know that if we play well, we have a good chance of beating most of the teams we play … It was a question of having the confidence and desire to win.”
The Red first topped fifth-seeded Brown, 4-1, to make it to the semifinals. The team won both completed doubles matches after Iyer and sophomore Alex Sidney beat the Bears’ opposing No. 1 doubles team and sophomores Jason Luu and Quoc Nguyen won the No. 2 doubles. The Red also won three of the four singles matches it played.
Iyer said the No. 2 doubles tandem of Luu and Nguyen was integral to the team’s success in the tournament.
“I think what was special this weekend was at doubles [with] Jason Luu and Quoc … They played fantastic this weekend and got some wins that were critical for us,” he said.
After defeating Brown, the Red advanced to play top-seeded Harvard in the semi-finals on Saturday. The men secured wins at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles to claim the opening point. The Red then again won three of four completed singles matches, this time in straight-set victories by Iyer at No. 1, Nguyen at No. 4 and Luu at No. 5. The 4-2 win vaulted the team into the finals against second-seeded Columbia.
The Red gained the opening point against Columbia in its closest challenge yet. The team won at No. 3 doubles, 8-4, but dropped the No. 1 match-up by the reverse score. The Red then claimed the point by an 8-7(2) tie-break victory in the No. 2 doubles face-off. The team followed up that point with wins in No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 singles to round out a 4-0 victory and take the championship.
The Red also beat Columbia and Harvard two years ago for its previous tournament title. The team was ranked No. 1 that year and was a senior-led team, as opposed to this season’s newer squad.
“This time, we have several sophomores and I’m the only junior — it’s a young team,” Iyer said. “It’s fun and refreshing to play with the guys; they’re young and know how to play hard.”
After the tournament, the men have next weekend off before returning to play against Binghamton and Colgate at home. Iyer added that the men will have to work even harder heading into the rest of the season.
“We’re more hungry than ever now,” he said. “It was a great weekend and we’re really, really excited. The other teams are going to be coming after us, so we’re going to have to push even harder.”
The women (2-0) had been scheduled to play in their own ECAC indoor tournament on Feb. 8-10, but winter storm Nemo forced the cancellation of those matches. The team plays this weekend, however, when it travels to Army on Saturday for its first official games in three weeks.
While the Red and the Black Knights have not seen each other for a dual match since 2009, some members of each squad played each other at the Cornell Winter Invitational in January, with the Red leading 10-4 in singles matches and 3-2 in doubles matches against the Black Knights.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough match,” said junior Ryann Young. “We just played them in an individual tournament a couple of weeks ago, so a lot of my teammates got to play them in matches … I think that we’ve been working really hard and playing pretty well, so hopefully we’ll come out on top.”Due to the cancellation of the ECAC tournament, the Red will not see any Ivy opponents until the end of March, which Young said is detrimental for the freshman players on the team. She added that the team is now working on getting good matches in to prepare for the rest of the season.“[We want to work on] making every match count, especially as a good warm-up for Ivy League season,” she said. “Just gaining the experience and getting the match play in is something that’s important for us.”Although the men’s team just faced and triumphed over its first set of Ivy opponents, the men also maintain the same focus as the women on the upcoming parts of the year.“It was a really good weekend, I thought all the guys played great and I thought our team played really well as a unit,” Iyer said. “It’s a big moment for us to win the ECAC championship, but we have to use it as a stepping stone for the rest of the season.”
Original Author: Emily Berman