Aubrey Akers / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell's loss at Harvard had the same score as against the Crimson last year, but with a different victor.

April 22, 2019

Following ‘Painful Lesson,’ Men’s Tennis Fixes Eyes on Ivy Title

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Going into last weekend, two Ivy League teams, undefeated in the conference, faced off, with only one able to keep its blemish-free record intact.

A devastating loss to Harvard during this weekend’s road trip to New England tarnished men’s tennis’ perfect conference record. An Ivy League title, however, remains within reach as the team redeemed their loss with a 4-2 win against Dartmouth the following day.

The Red fell to the Crimson, 4-3, a tight loss that was hinged on the last singles match. Last year’s results were flipped in favor of the Red, when the team toppled the Crimson 4-3 at Reis Tennis Center.

Nevertheless, Harvard (18-5, 5-0 Ivy), the 38th-ranked team nationally, is on a seven-match winning streak in-conference and secured the early 1-0 advantage by clinching the doubles point.

The Red (14-9, 5-1 Ivy) equalized the score with a pivotal 6-2, 6-4 win by sophomore Evan Bynoe at the number six position. The match’s momentum seemed to change to favor the Red when sophomore Alafia Ayeni won in straight sets at the number one position, tilting the advantage of the match to Cornell.

The rest of the singles matches were forced into three sets. Vasa gave the Red the 3-1 lead after dropping the first set 6-0, fighting through a tiebreaker in the second set, and finally clinching a 7-5 advantage in the third set.

The remaining singles players, senior David Volfson, junior Lev Kazakov and junior Daniel Soyfer, struggled to convert with each surrendering their hard-fought three-set matches. The Crimson maintained their Ivy League dominance, remaining undefeated in the conference.

“We put ourselves in a position to win the match — we were leading the match 3-1 and leading in one of the matches,” head coach Silviu Tanasoiu said. “Unfortunately we were not able to play the key moments like we should have, we played defensively, which really cost us against Harvard.”

The Red entered their match the following day against Dartmouth occupying the third place spot in Ivy League standings.

The hunt for an Ivy League title stayed alive after a 4-2 win against the Green in Hanover.
Despite a win from the Kazakov/Ayeni doubles duo, the Red struggled once again to procure the doubles point, dropping the following two doubles sets to Dartmouth.

“The doubles point is critical,” Tanasoiu said. “We are always trying to improve our doubles and put ourselves in a position to get that point.”

Singles play introduced a turn of events in which the Red swiftly gained control of the match. Kazakov at the number three position and Bynoe at the number six position breezed through their matches in straight sets.

The score was equalized thereafter, however, as Vasa fell 6-2, 7-6 (4) to Dartmouth’s Sid Chari. A three-set win from Soyfer regained the lead for the Red, leaving the fate of the match up to the last two singles matches.

Following two grueling sets against his 60th-ranked opponent Charlie Broom, Ayeni managed to capitalize upon two break point opportunities, winning the third set and sealing the Red victory at 4-2.

“We started slow, but this time around I was really proud of how we played the key moments,”
Tanasoiu said. “We learned a painful lesson against Harvard, and I thought we really played on our terms against Dartmouth.”

With a Harvard loss to Columbia this weekend, the team is now tied for second with the Crimson, with the Lions taking sole possession of the first place. The team’s upcoming match against the New York competitor will decide the fate of the Ivy League title or the team.

“Our goal is to win the Ivy League and participate in the NCAA’s, and Columbia is our only obstacle right now,” Tanasoiu said. “It will be the most important match we will play this season with a lot on the line — all the training we have done this season is for moments like this. We know the team well, we competed against them in the fall, and I think we have the team to beat them.”

The team will contend for the Ivy League title in its final regular season match against Columbia University in New York City on Saturday at 1 p.m.