A loss this weekend against Ivy foe Columbia marked the end of men’s tennis’ season. The 4-2 loss against the Lions not only deprived the Red of an Ivy League title but also ultimately precluded the team from earning a spot in the NCAA tournament.
“I think both teams knew what was at stake,” head coach Silviu Tanasoiu said. “Every person on the court knew what we were playing for and, despite the outcome, the quality of tennis was extremely high.”
The Lions entered the match on Saturday with a 7-match winning streak and an undefeated Ivy record — something that Cornell lost last weekend at Harvard. With five nationally-ranked singles players and three nationally-ranked doubles pairings, Columbia is ranked 16th in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
The Red has historically struggled against the team — its last win against the 6-consecutive Ivy League title winner was in 2013.
Although junior Joseph McAllister and sophomore Eero Vasa initially secured the advantage for Cornell with a 6-3 doubles win, the pairings of sophomore Alafia Ayeni and junior Lev Kazakov along with junior Daniel Soyfer and senior David Volfson could not maintain such a lead. Following 6-2 and 6-3 losses, respectively, the Tigers monopolized the doubles point.
“The doubles point is certainly a difference maker, but even without the doubles point, I thought we reacted incredibly well to losing the doubles point,” Tanasoiu said. “We started to come back in singles, and put ourselves in a position to win, winning five out of six of the first sets.”
The singles round further tilted the advantage in the Lions’ favor — at the first position, Ayeni dropped a three-set loss against his 33rd-ranked opponent. The Red began to neutralize Columbia’s lead, though, with a win from sophomore Evan Bynoe at the 6th position. Vasa closed out a tight 3-set match to equalize the score.
The Lions reclaimed their lead with a 6-4 win at the second spot, which meant that the Red’s fate hinged upon winning the last two matches. The final matchups, which would decide the results of the entire match and determine who took home the Ivy title, were brutally fought. Soyfer was up 5-3 in the third set of his match, but Kazakov’s devastating loss, a marathon 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(6) match, finalized the results of the day.
“I think the outcome was heartbreaking — we were a few points away from winning the title and beating a team ranked 16th in the country at their place,” Tanasoiu said. “We came about as close as you can come to winning. We are not happy with the outcome, but I am personally proud with how we fought and how the guys competed.”
As announced Monday at 6 p.m., Cornell men’s tennis will not take part in the NCAA Tournament. The two Ivy League participants in the tournament will be Columbia and Dartmouth, taking on Bryant and Michigan, respectively.