As the Cornell basketball team was capturing the attention of the university and most of the country this past week, the men’s and women’s tennis teams were quietly taking care of business on their respective Spring Break trips.
Spring Break marked the first time that either of Cornell’s tennis teams played outdoors this semester, and while it doesn’t take a tennis aficionado to understand the difficulties associated with transitioning from indoor to outdoor play, it does take a talented team to be able to overcome such elements and immediately perform at a high level. Both teams did just this, adjusting to the wind and sun in stride and competing admirably against schools that have been playing outside for months.
“The adjustment outside was really hard,” said freshman Christine Ordway. “Going outside can always give you new challenges, but I thought everyone handled it really well.”
According to junior Andy Gauthier, the men’s team performed better outside than it had in the previous weeks leading up to Spring Break.
“I think we played better,” Gauthier said. “I don’t think [playing outside] is much of a problem for us.”
Gauthier and the rest of the men’s team kicked off its whirlwind week in Salt Lake City, on Monday, narrowly defeating the host Utah Utes, 4-3, at the Eccles Tennis Center. Gauthier, junior Jeremy Feldman and senior Jonathan Fife earned singles victories, and the pairs of Fife and Feldman and Gauthier and sophomore Evan Bernstein won close doubles matches to give the Red the four points needed to squeak past the Utes (5-10).
Two days later, the Red was back at it again, this time falling to New Mexico State, 5-2. Gauthier prevailed in three sets over Jim Brouleau in No. 1 singles, 6-2, 6-7, 6-2, to deliver the Red’s only singles point of the match. The pairs of Gauthier and Feldman and Fife and Bernstein added victories in doubles play to give Cornell its second point.
Following the loss to the Aggies (10-4), the Red traveled to Boise, Id, to compete in the Boise State Tournament. Cornell put forth its most disappointing performance of the week in the tournament’s opening round on Friday afternoon, losing to the University of Portland (8-6), 4-3, at the BOAS Indoor Tennis Center.
Instead of hanging its head on the loss, however, the Red bounced back the following afternoon, defeating No. 47 UC Irvine (12-7) in dominating fashion, 5-1. Gauthier earned the victory in No. 1 singles, followed by junior Jon Jaklitsch at No. 2, and Feldman, Fife and Bernstein at No. 3, No. 4 and No 6, respectively. The match was called before doubles play began.
According to Gauthier, being able to bounce back from the tough loss to Portland and beat a nationally ranked team the following day was the most impressive feat his team achieved all week. The Red didn’t have much time to celebrate, however, as it lost a tightly contested match at the hands of the University of Idaho, 4-3, just hours after beating UC Irvine. Despite straight-set singles victories by Jaklitsch and Bernstein and a sweep of the doubles matches, the Red dropped four singles matches in the third set to give the Vandals (16-5) the one point victory.
As was the theme of the week, though, Cornell followed the loss with a win, defeating No. 71 Purdue on Sunday in the last match of the tournament to end the week on a high note. The Red dropped the doubles point against the Boiler Makers (10-7), but singles victories by Jaklitsch, Fife, Bernstein and senior Ashish Bhandari gave Cornell the four points it needed to earn the 4-3 victory.
Gauthier hopes that the resilience his team showed during Spring Break will carry into the remainder of the season, as the team resumes Ivy League play later this week.
“Match toughness,” Gauthier said, when asked what his team would take away from its trip out west. “All the Ivy matches are going to be close. Everything is going to be 4-3, 5-2. [Match toughness] prepares us better for Ivy games.”
While the men’s team was out west for Spring Break, the women’s team was down south, basking in the Florida sun and defeating any opponent that came its way.
The women got things started on Monday with a convincing 7-0 victory over the University of Central Arkansas (2-11) in Orlando. Senior Natalia Sanchez led the way for the Red, handling Petra Keilova in No. 1 singles, 6-3, 6-3. Ordway and fellow freshmen Kristin Lim and Sarah O’Neil grabbed the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 singles spots for Cornell, respectively. Sanchez and Lim paired together to earn the victory in No. 1 doubles, followed by the pair of Ordway and O’Neil in the second spot.
Following its dominant performance against Central Arkansas, the Red remained in Orlando to face the Murray State Racers (3-8) on Tuesday. The opponent was new, but the result was the same, as Cornell picked up its third consecutive shutout victory, 7-0. Sanchez, Ordway and Lim claimed the top three singles spots for the Red, followed by junior captain Ruxandra Dumitrescu in the fourth spot. The top two doubles pairs were the same as in the previous match, and the result was the same as well.
“It was great to see some new faces and play against people we have never played before.” Ordway said of the team’s opportunity to journey down south and compete against some unfamiliar opponents. “Its always good to [compete against] new people.”
After its match against the Racers, the Red traveled to Winter Park, Fla. and defeated Division II Rollins College (13-5), 6-3, on Thursday. Ordway, Lim, Dumitrescu and freshman Kirsten Kohagan picked up the singles victories for the Red, while the pairs of Sanchez and Lim and Ordway and O’Neil each earned victories to give Cornell the doubles point.
The women’s team rounded out its hectic Spring Break schedule on Friday, when it defeated Tufts University (4-3) in Melbourne, Fla. In a match the featured seven singles matches and four doubles matches and was scored out of eleven total possible points, the Red prevailed, 7-4. Ordway won her fourth consecutive No. 2 singles match for Cornell and the team won three singles matches and four doubles matches to leave Florida having run its win streak to six.
“[The winning streak] definitely gives us a lot of confidence heading into the Ivy League,” Ordway said. “Its always nice going in there with some confidence. Obviously we can play with [the rest of the Ivy League], so we’ll see what happens.”