With its sixth one-point victory of the season and a nail-biting final set, the Cornell men’s tennis team secured itself an Ivy League championship for just the second time in history Sunday afternoon.
The Red (21-3, 6-1 Ivy) downed Brown (11-11, 0-7) with a 4-3 victory on Sunday to clinch the title. The win came in tense fashion, as senior Bernardo Casares Rosa prevailed against the Bears’ Charles Tan in the final set of the game.
“Today was definitely the most important match I’ve ever played,” Casares Rosa said. “I tried to focus just on playing well rather than winning, which I think paid off.”
The Red fell into an early deficit as it dropped two of its three doubles matches to lose the doubles point. Sophomore David Volfson and freshman Lev Kazakov won Cornell’s sole doubles game, 6-3.
“[Volfson and I have] gotten really used to our positions on the court throughout the year and know exactly what to expect from each other,” Kazakov said. “He’s giving me confidence throughout the game and it just worked out very well today.”
Cornell eventually evened out the score in the singles portion of the match. A series of wins from Volfson and seniors Colin Sinclair and Chris Vrabel balanced out losses by Kazakov and freshman Pietro Rimondini to set the score at 3-3 heading into the final match of the game.
“The seniors have always been there for us, especially when we aren’t doing too well,” Rimondini said. “They really helped me out in so many ways especially [today], and it’ll be really sad to see them leave in a few weeks.”
With the championship title on the line in the final game, Casares Rosa faced immense pressure to secure a victory against Tan.
The senior managed to edged out Tan in a close 7-5 decision in the first set, before finding himself in a similar situation in the following one. A critical call came as Casares Rosa seemingly hit a ball out of bounds with the set tied 5-5.
“After winning the first set, a mixture of [Tan] playing well and my nervousness led to the tie at 5-5,” Casares Rosa said. “The sixth point ended up being a long rally where I was moving around a lot and [Tan] called an out on one of my forehands.”
However, after a review, the previous call was overruled, giving Casares Rosa the point. With a 6-5 lead, the senior did not miss a beat and completed the clutch two-set victory 7-5.
“There was a lot of noise in the crowd, so the ref went to replay the point,” Casares Rosa continued. “He ended up calling the ball in and I got the break to go up 6-5. Thankfully, I was able to finish the match and give the victory to Cornell, my teammates and all our supporters.”
With the win, Cornell finished the season in a three-way tie with Columbia and Harvard for the Ivy League title.
“Everyone played a great role in winning the Ivy League championship, especially the seniors who have mentored us throughout this whole process,” Rimondini said. “I’m still new to the program, but I’m very happy to see that everyone’s hard work paid off.”
While the Red will undoubtedly savor its long-awaited Ivy title, the team will also certainly be looking forward its first NCAA tournament bid. With the announcements of the NCAA field coming this Tuesday, May 2, Cornell is well-situated to qualify for the tournament with an at-large bid.
“This win means a lot for the seniors in particular because they’ve worked so hard throughout the year,” Kazakov said. “However, the team [as a whole] will definitely be looking ahead to the NCAA [tournament] as the next challenge.”
But for now, the team has earned every right to relish its historical accomplishment.
“This win is special for me, special for the team, and I’m just extremely glad and satisfied that I’m leaving this team in a better place than four years ago, and knowing that this team can be even better in years to come,” Casares Rosa said.