With two tough losses to begin conference play, the Cornell men’s tennis team started its repeat bid for the Ivy League championship on the wrong foot.
The Red (7-9, 0-2 Ivy) fell to both Princeton (16-9, 1-2) and Penn (13-10, 2-1) by close one-point margins over the weekend. Cornell has now lost seven matches by two points or fewer in the 2018 season.
“In both of our matches — and it’s been a recurring theme all season — we’ve put ourselves into very good positions,” said head coach Silviu Tanasoiu. “We just need to separate ourselves from our opponents there with an aggressive mindset and unfortunately we’ve tended to be passive in the moments that counted.”
The Red’s loss in its season opener against Princeton came in especially disappointing fashion. Looking to avenge a 4-3 loss against the Tigers earlier in the season in the ECAC indoor championships, the Red battled to a 3-3 tie heading into the deciding third singles match. In the match between senior Daniel Grunberger and Princeton’s Ryan Seggerman, Cornell took the game to match point in the decisive third set, but Seggerman scored seven straight points to clinch the set and the match.
“We came about as close as we could against Princeton,” Tanasoiu said. “We had match points to win the match in two separate games, but we were just unable to convert.”
Much of the same story played out again in the team’s meeting with Penn. The Red split its six singles matches — four of them going to third sets — and the game was essentially decided in a tiebreaker at the third doubles match.
“Against Penn, we were up a break at all three courts and definitely put ourselves into the position we wanted to be,” Tanasoiu said. “But once again, it was playing passively and without purpose in those moments … which left things up to chance which [Penn] took advantage of.”
Cornell now finds itself at the bottom of the league standings in the young season. However, there is hope for an upward climb in the standings with an improvement in the team’s mental fortitude.
“I don’t think [a close match] is a matter of tennis ability … because we have put ourselves in good positions to win,” Tanasoiu said. “A lot is just in the players’ hands to make the mental choice of how deliberate they want to be in close situations.”
The Red will finish a three-game homestand this weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard. Both games will be played at 1 p.m. in Reis Tennis Center, with the Red hosting Dartmouth on Saturday and Harvard Sunday.
“Harvard and Dartmouth are two of the best teams in the league … but they’re certainly beatable,” Tanasoiu said. “It’ll ultimately come down to raising our mental approach and being more deliberate when the time comes.”