A mixed season of ups and downs finally came to an end on Saturday, as the Cornell men’s tennis team fell in a 4-0 decision to Columbia.
Despite the Red (10-11, 3-4 Ivy) downing Columbia’s (17-4, 6-1) nationally ranked doubles duo and leading in its two top singles matches, a final decision was called before the squad could close the scoring gap. With the loss, Cornell fell below .500 and was eliminated from consideration for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
“At the end of the day, they were better,” said head coach Silviu Tanasoiu. “They closed the important moments of the match better than we did, and they deserved to win for that.”
Sophomore Lev Kazakov and freshman Alafia Ayeni opened doubles play for the Red with a 6-4 win over Columbia’s No. 29 ranked Victor Pham and Jackie Tang. However, the squad dropped its next two doubles matches in 7-5 and 6-4 decisions to allow the Lions to open scoring with the doubles point.
“It was about as close as you could get in the doubles point and we were ahead at number two,” Tanasoiu said. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the lead and it affected our momentum and the rest of the match.”
Entering into singles play, junior David Volfson was able to prevail in a tiebreaker against Columbia’s No. 23 ranked Pham in first singles, while Ayeni rallied in his second set at second singles. Nevertheless, Columbia was able to secure straight set wins in the third, fourth and fifth singles spots to clinch its victory before either of the top two matches finished.
“David Volfson had one of the better matches I’ve seen in college tennis, leading against one of the highest ranked players in the country and just staying very composed,” Tanasoiu said. “Alafia also had a close match and played with a lot of conviction in the second set.”
While Cornell fell short of its aspiration to repeat as Ivy League champions this year, the squad still views its tumultuous season positively. Despite being plagued by inconsistent lineups, a difficult schedule, and early losing streaks — including a three-game losing streak to begin conference play — the Red was able to regroup at the end of the season to finish with a near even record.
“We’ve had the fifth strongest schedule in the country this year and we also did not have our full lineup for 9 of our twenty-one matches,” Tanasoiu said. “I truly believe the circumstances had a huge impact on how our season ended, and given the amount of adversity that we’ve had to face as a program, I think the guys responded in an incredibly positive way.”
Looking ahead to next season, the squad maintains much of the same roster, with the exceptions of seniors Karim Aren and Daniel Grunberger. There is a hope that, without the unreliable lineups and tough schedule, next year will be one to look forward to.
“The preparation for next season starts yesterday’,” Tanasoiu said. “This year has been a powerful lesson for us all … I can certainly say that this group is much better now than at the start of the season, and forecast that this team will be even better next year.”