It’s been an underwhelming season thus far for the reigning Ivy League champions, but the Cornell men’s tennis team holds confidence in a midseason turnaround.
After going 2-1 on a tough Midwest trip earlier this month, the Red now prepares to see its first action in over two weeks, hosting Buffalo and William and Mary this week, before closing out non-conference play next Saturday against No. 16 Oklahoma.
“Since the Midwest trip, we’ve probably had our two toughest weeks of training,” said head coach Silviu Tanasoiu. “We knew this was the last extended prep time we would have for the rest of the season, so we’ve heightened the intensity and workload.”
Although the Red has amassed six losses this year after going 22-4 the previous season, records have not been a source of concern for the team. With a majority of losses coming in less than two-point decisions, there is a sentiment that the recent training period and continuous chemistry building will bear fruit sooner rather than later.
“We’ve lost six matches, but without exception, we’ve been very close in all of them,” Tanasoiu said. “The only big difference between this year and last year’s team is that we’ve lacked a finishing aspect, and I feel that is certainly correctable.”
The squad also appears to be gradually stepping into the singles vacancies left by last year’s seniors. Noticeably, freshman Alafia Ayeni has already stepped into the top two singles spots, amassing five wins on the season.
“[Ayeni]’s athleticism is something you don’t see on an everyday basis and it’s certainly something special,” Tanasoiu said. “He’s brought a major element to our team with his mindset and work ethic.”
One of the largest hurdles facing this team comes in the doubles arena. While Cornell’s doubles pairings last season were largely anchored by the previous graduating class, this season’s squad has lacked some of that communication and guidance, going just 12-18 in doubles outings on the season.
“Our doubles play has improved in the last several matches, but there’s still room for improvement,” Tanasoiu said. “If we do that, and continue to take care of opportunities given to us, I think we’ll be in a very good position.”
Nonetheless, recent positives from its Midwestern trip and an extended training period still has the Red with a positive outlook on its championship prospects.
“This is my first season in college, so I am very new to everything but I do know that the hardest working team wins 99 percent of the time and our team is working extremely hard,” Ayeni said. “We had a bit of a slow start to the season but we have been picking up steam in our last few matches and I think that … our team has what it takes to be champs again this year.”
Cornell hosts Buffalo at 6 p.m. Thursday. and William and Mary at 2 p.m. Saturday, before closing out non-conference play March 31 against Oklahoma. All three matches are slated to take place at Reis Tennis Center.