Continuing this season’s familiar narrative, the Cornell men’s tennis team played another two close matches at home this weekend, ending with a split against Dartmouth and Harvard.
The Red (8-10, 1-3 Ivy) dropped to No. 32 Dartmouth (17-5, 3-1) in a 4-2 decision on Saturday before bouncing back with a 4-3 upset against No. 29 Harvard (19-5, 3-2).
“We definitely played with a different attitude this weekend than we had most of the season,” said head coach Silviu Tanasoiu.
Against Dartmouth, the Red entered the match short-handed with an injury to junior David Volfson, who typically plays the No. 1 singles. While the squad was able to secure the doubles point, it dropped all four of the first singles matches, including a tough 7-6, 7-6 defeat at the No. 1 singles by freshman Alafia Ayeni.
“We were short-handed against Dartmouth, but it didn’t impact how the rest of our team competed,” Tanasiou said. “The guys fought really hard … and had a clear purpose of what we were going to be doing, which was a big difference from the rest of the season.”
The Red didn’t let its loss weigh on its mind as it came back on Sunday to bring in the first conference win of the season against the Crimson through a game-deciding match by sophomore Joe McAllister. With the score tied at three apiece, McAllister was able win his No. 6 singles match in three sets — 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 — to clinch the match point.
“[McAllister] lost a very close first set, but he made some adjustments and understood exactly … what he needed to do the rest of the match,” Tanasoiu said. “It was an absolute battle … and when the match was on the line, he was very methodical and executed with an aggressive mindset.”
The sophomore now remains undefeated in Ivy play at 3-0 after playing a limited role last season and competing in only two singles matches during non-conference play.
“Other teams may have been surprised, but … seeing the strides and additions [McAllister] has made to his game, we’re not surprised at his success in matches,” Tanasiou said. “He’s probably our most consistent player both in practice and games.”
In the upset win, the Red saw its first fully healthy lineup in a few weeks. Volfson returned to his No. 1 singles spot, and sophomore Lev Kazakov, who played against the Green after taking a personal leave for a week, played at the No. 3 singles spot. The former fell in a tough three-set loss, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, while the latter secured a 6-2, 6-3 straight-set victory.
“David and Lev coming back against Harvard was an absolute difference maker and changed everything for us,” Tanasiou said.
The Red now heads back on the road for upcoming games against Yale and Brown where it will look to take advantage of two of the weaker teams in the conference. Yale remains winless in Ivy play, while Brown shares a 1-3 record with Cornell.
“We certainly don’t want to take any of [the upcoming games] as a given,” Tanasiou said. “We did a good job taking care of ourselves this weekend, but college tennis has a lot of parity where any team can beat any team.”
Cornell will play in New Haven against Yale on Saturday at 1 p.m. before finishing up its weekend road trip in Providence against Brown on Sunday at 1 p.m.