No. 24 men’s tennis (11-1) came into an action-packed weekend looking to maintain momentum after a successful start to the season. Facing No. 52 Indiana (9-3) and Hobart (0-2) on Saturday and No. 30 Oklahoma State (8-3) on Sunday, the team needed a resilient performance to end the weekend with a positive result.
On Saturday, the Red came out firing against the Hoosiers. Sophomore tandem Nathan Mao and Adit Sinha won comfortably at first doubles, and a tough tiebreak victory by senior Vladislav Melnic and sophomore Radu Papoe secured the doubles point for Cornell.
The Red cruised through the rest of the match, sweeping the singles. After straight set victories by Melnic, Mao and Sinha, freshman Petar Teodorovic and Papoe ground out three setters, capped off by a thrilling win from sophomore Samuel Paquette to earn the 7-0 shutout.
Mao, the only Cornell starter to pick up four wins on the weekend, impressed spectators throughout the match with an aggressive style of play that is often lost in modern tennis.
“I play a disruptive net-rushing game style that forces opponents out of their comfortable rhythm,” Mao said. “The hunting mentality is also something we’ve emphasized this semester to keep the pressure on our opponents.”
Cornell showcased its depth a couple of hours later when it took on Hobart. The Red started an entirely different lineup against the Statesmen but didn’t miss a beat.
In the doubles, junior Bradley Paliska and sophomore Jack McCarthy showcased their significant service power in a victory at the first position. Junior Muhammad Dosani and freshman Noah Eisenberg won 6-1 at second doubles, which was enough to secure the point for Cornell. The Statesman took the third doubles match, with Nick Grosso and Nick Fischer having the advantage over freshman Aman Sharma and senior Matthew Druyanoff.
Demonstrating its season-long dominance in singles, the Red won five clean two-set victories, with Hobart’s Winter Fagerberg picking up the lone point of the day for either of Cornell’s opponents, as the Red won, 6-1.
On Sunday, Cornell faced a major challenge against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys came into the matchup hot, having taken down Vanderbilt and No. 21 Middle Tennessee the weekend before.
The match started off with another win at first doubles by Mao and Sinha. Cornell has tried many doubles combinations this year with little success, but this team has been producing positive results together. Sinha attributed the duo’s strong chemistry to solid teamwork and a consistent rhythm.
“As a team, I think Nathan and I gel very well together because we have been playing as a team since entering college, and our personalities balance each other out,” Sinha said. “Over this weekend, we ended up doing well because we found a rhythm in our serves and returns… that allowed us to win more points by closing the net or by rallying from the back.”
Despite Cornell’s win at first doubles, Oklahoma State’s strong doubles lineup secured the point, setting up a come-from-behind situation for the Red, but a straight set victory by Melnic brought the matchup level.
The rest of the contest was by no means simple for the Red, with every other match going the full three sets. Mao and Paquette both came back from second set losses to put the Red up 3-1, and after Alex Garcia of Oklahoma State won to keep it close, Papoe finished the job with a third set victory in a battle that epitomized Cornell’s resilience and team mentality. Cornell took the match, 4-2.
“The main thing that helped me the most in going over the tough moments in the second set in both matches is my mentality, the will to fight for every point until the match is over,” Papoe said. “Even if tennis is an individual sport, me and my teammates are playing together for something bigger than just for ourselves, and I think that also helped.”
Cornell has a weekend off before traveling to Texas to take on Southern Methodist University (6-5) on Friday, March 10. Doubles will start at 6:00 p.m.
Nate Krackeler is a Sun Contributing Writer. He can be reached at [email protected].