Men’s tennis fell short in its attempt to win the Ivy League title last weekend by losing two-straight Ivy matches against No. 39 Princeton (18-8, 4-3 Ivy) and No. 45 Penn (19-5, 6-1 Ivy).
On Friday, the Red (16-8, 3-3 Ivy) headed to New Jersey to face the first of its two ranked opponents in Princeton. It was a tough matchup as Cornell lost 1-4. Although the score may not show it, it was a close match as two of the singles matches went to three sets. The sole Red point came from senior Alafia Ayeni at No. 1 singles when he defeated nationally-ranked Ryan Seggerman of Princeton, giving Ayeni his 18th individual win of the season.
Two days later, the Red returned home to host Penn in its penultimate match of the season. It was Cornell that got on the board first, with the nationally-ranked doubles pairing of Ayeni and junior Vladislav Melnic, defeating another ranked pair at No. 1 doubles. The Red was able to clinch the doubles point as the senior duo of Evan Bynoe and Pietro Rimondini won at No. 3 doubles. Going into the singles matches with a 1-0 lead, the Red quickly dissipated, as the Quakers won four straight-set victories to clinch the match, 4-1.
It has been an uncharacteristic season for Cornell men’s tennis. They were a nationally-ranked team and had just recently won the 2020 ECAC Championship, but this season was one plagued by injury.
“Well, I’ll be lying if I say it’s not disappointing… we didn’t come up with the outcome we were hoping for,” said Head Coach Silviu Tanasoiu.
At the start of the season, men’s tennis was on a roll, starting the season on an eight-match winning streak, demolishing opponent after opponent. Then came the injuries. One by one, starters were out, and other players had to step in to replace them.
“All the injuries that we’ve dealt with throughout the semesters have caught up with us and it was very difficult to stay healthy throughout the entire season,” Tanasoiu said.
One positive Tanasoiu noticed was that the matches lost were always close ones. This can be attributed to the depth and talent the men’s team has, and those who were stepping up took full advantage of the situation and played at the highest level. “We always tried to make the most of what we had, and unfortunately… we came up short,” Tanasoiu said.
Although it was disappointing not to the goals set out, Tanasoiu was proud of the guys that fought through. “I commend every one of the guys for doing their best and fighting, fighting despite the circumstances.”
The Red will play for pride and host Columbia (14-7, 4-2 Ivy) on Saturday at 1 pm at Reis Tennis Center for its final match of the season.
“The goal [of] every match that we play is to win, ”Tanasoiu said. But this match especially is bittersweet, not only because it is the end of the season, but it is the last match for the seniors who have dedicated themselves to the program for the past four or five years.
“We want to send out the seniors on the best possible note as well, they’ve done a lot for the program … they’ve been through a lot with the pandemic, with personal situations and injuries they’ve had to deal with, so we would love to be able to send them off on the best possible note with the win, ”Tanasoiu said.
Women’s tennis also missed out on winning the Ivy title as it lost both of its last two matches of its season. The Red (8-12, 3-4 Ivy) failed to register even a point as it was swept in back-to-back matches by No. 49 Princeton (11-10, 6-1 Ivy) and No. 63 Penn ( 15-9, 5-2 Ivy).
For the women’s team, this outcome brought a bit more optimism. For a team that had struggled the past couple of years, through rebuilds, coaching changes and a pandemic, the wins over ranked opponents and the three Ivy wins, signal hope for the next season.
“We are getting better, we did get better throughout the season, we will continue to get better and we’re proud of how we did this year. We’re also not satisfied…, ”said Interim Head Coach Katie Zordani.
A lot of this improvement can be attributed to this year’s senior class. They started their freshman year as the only members of the tennis team, as the other two members, a senior and a sophomore took time off.
“They’ve done a tremendous and amazing job with taking that responsibility in their hands. It’s a big task… it’s not like they had seniors, juniors and sophomores to kind of lead them, to kind of create that culture, to create the habits and instill that, so they within themselves have created the culture that they want, “Zordani said.
Looking toward the future, Cornell women’s tennis has some big goals to accomplish next season.
“We would love to be ranked within the rankings as a team, and maybe have some players individually ranked and then competing for that Ivy league title,” Zordani said. “We’re gonna shoot and aim high.”