Cornell men’s tennis (11-5) snapped a three-match winning streak with two back-to-back losses against Virginia Commonwealth University and University of South Florida in Tampa this past weekend.
The Red, who normally practices indoors due to Ithaca’s capricious weather conditions, had to adjust quickly to play outdoors in the heat of southern Florida. “It was a good test for us, to go outdoors, and [in] much different conditions we’re accustomed to”, said Head Coach Silviu Tanasoiu.
First up, it was No. 49 VCU (11-6) who overcame No. 50 Cornell with a final score of 4-0 for a neutral-site victory in Tampa. It was an extremely tight match, regardless of the scoreline saying otherwise. The Rams won both doubles matches to secure the doubles point, to gain a 1-0 lead over the Red. Before the Red even got a chance to fight back, VCU edged the Red at the No. 2, No. 4 and No. 6 singles positions to clinch the 4-0 sweep over Cornell. Since the win was already secured, the rest of the singles matches went unfinished, but the Red had won each of the first sets in those unfinished matches.
The Red finished the weekend matchup on Sunday against USF (9-9). The Red played a bit better, however #54 South Florida seemed too much to handle. Similar to the match against VCU, the Red quickly lost the lead after the Bulls secured the doubles point and two-straight singles matches. Cornell cut the deficit with two comeback singles wins by senior Alafia Ayeni and senior Pietro Rimondini at No. 1 and No. 4 singles, respectively. Both Ayeni and Rimondini battled back after dropping the first set, getting the Red back to 3-2. Despite the comeback attempt, the Red lost at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, to secure the win for the Bulls.
A continuous problem for Cornell is injuries. “We’re still shorthanded…we are almost without two, and in the last match, without three of our starters, and that’s half of our team”, Tanasoiu said. While junior Vladislav Melnic returned to the lineup last weekend, other players have gone, a continuous cycle faced by the Red for the past month or so, with players coming in and going out. “I think by now, [the players] have learned that we have to do the most with what we have available. We can not afford to waste any energy with the circumstances, but invest all our energy in how we react to the circumstances”, Tanasoiu said.
The Red begins Ivy play this weekend at 1 p.m. on Saturday against Dartmouth before facing Harvard at 1 p.m. on Sunday; both will be at Reis Tennis Center. The last time Cornell was crowned Ivy Champion was in 2017. This year, however, the Red face a huge task in returning to the top spot.
“It’s arguably one of the most competitive fields we’ve ever faced within the league, with so many teams ranked very high in the country…we expect the toughest battles,” Tanasoiu said. But the first priority is to get the team back and remain healthy. “This has been a priority for us for the last several weeks and continues to be”.
The women’s team (4-7, 1-0 Ivy), on the other hand, has been on a roll since dropping the first seven matches to start the season. They have now won five straight, most recently, scored a win in their Ivy-opener against No. 43 Columbia (10-6, 0-1 Ivy). This is the Red’s second time in two weeks that it beat a ranked opponent, the first one coming against No. 72 Buffalo on March 11.
A win at No. 1 doubles by sophomore duo Jenny Wong and Lauren Stein sealed the doubles point for the Red. Along with the doubles point, Cornell secured its 4-3 victory over the Lions with singles wins by senior Katherine Nguyen at No. 2, freshman Lan Mi at No. 1 and a No. 6 victory by Wong.
The Red looks to continue its hot streak when it hits the road for a match against Boston College next Thursday before continuing Ivy play against Dartmouth and Harvard next Saturday and Sunday.