Cornell men’s tennis is already buzzing around the country, playing some of the best teams in college tennis to get ready for April Ivy League play.
The Red has already traveled to Ohio and Michigan, and will be in Oklahoma next weekend. Along the way, Cornell will play a litany of top-25 teams; this past weekend’s defeat at the hands of No. 23 Michigan was only the first of many challenges the team will face down the road.
“I think, first of all, Michigan is one of the better teams in the country,” said head coach Silviu Tanasoiu. “With them, it required an A-plus effort and focus — and execution — to beat a team of their caliber. We came close, but we’re not there yet.”
Though the match score read 4-1 in favor of the Wolverines, Cornell put up a good fight. Junior Lev Kazakov seemed to be closing in on a victory before his match ended. Senior Jake Hansen and junior Pietro Rimondini also played hard-fought matches.
“Playing on their turf certainly had an impact,” Tanasoiu said. “They have one of the most boisterous crowds I’ve seen in college athletics. And they are a very loud team themselves. I think they play with more energy than any other team in the country.”
The Red bounced back the next day with a 4-0 victory over Michigan State, a win that Tanasoiu called, “a disciplined effort across the board.”
“There were a lot of lessons we learned from the previous match at Michigan,” he said.
Though it is early in the season, the Red is plagued with injuries. Senior David Volfson, the highest ranked player in Cornell history and the team’s No. 1 in singles, is currently recovering from two broken thumbs. Sophomore starter Eero Vasa, a transfer from the University of Central Florida, is recovering his hemoglobin levels after a 34-hour bleeding incident and is being eased back into the lineup.
“It’s hard to tell, but we’re hopeful that in the next month or month and a half, we’ll have a chance to see [Volfson] back on the court,” said Tanasoiu.
In the meantime, the Red will depend on a young group of players bolstered by experienced transfers. A bright spot in the defeat was the play of junior Wisconsin transfer Daniel Soyfer, who notched a decisive win against Michigan’s Patrick Maloney.
“There’s certainly an advantage to having guys with experience that have faced the pressure of college tennis before,” Tanasoiu said of Soyfer and Vasa. “Their level of maturity is much higher than most freshmen we have.”
“At the same time, there’s a new system with new academic challenges they haven’t faced before. We’re trying to help them navigate this environment,” Tanasoiu said. “More than anything, they have to make adjustments off the court.”
Despite the team’s rocky start, Tanasoiu is optimistic; he believes a tough schedule will pay dividends come league play at the end of the year.
“Considering we have one of the toughest schedules in the country and half of our team was not able to compete in these first few matches, we’ve certainly seen some positive signs,” Tanasoiu said. “But we’ve certainly seen some places where we need to get a lot better.”
According to Tanasoiu, fans who come out to Reis Tennis Center this season won’t be disappointed.
“We have some of the better players on this team that Cornell has had in a long time, if not ever,” Tanasoiu said. “I think it would be fantastic if people gave it a chance and watched these spectacular athletes.”
The Red will travel to Oklahoma next week to take on the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa. Cornell’s next home match will be Feb. 24 when the Iowa Hawkeyes and Colgate Raiders come to Ithaca for a double-header.