Cornell Embarks on Ivy League Season With Columbia Matches
ITHACA, N.Y. – With a long road of fall tournaments and winter non-league dual matches in its wake, the Cornell tennis teams kick off Ivy League play on Saturday with matches against Columbia. The men’s match will be played at 1 p.m. at Reis Tennis Center in Ithaca, while the women’s match is slated for noon at The Dick Savitt Tennis Center in New York.
The Cornell women’s team (8-4) continues its stretch of six consecutive away matches, which started last week with a three-match Spring Break trip through the Carolinas. The Big Red fell to UNC-Wilmington and College of Charleston before rebounding for a 4-3 victory over Coastal Carolina on Friday. Junior Sarah O’Neil wrapped up the decisive point with a three-set victory at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Ryann Young is 10-1 from the No. 3 spot on the year.
The Big Red leads the all-time series against Columbia, 19-14, which includes a 5-2 loss to the Lions on Feb. 18 in the consolation semifinals at the ECAC Indoor Championships. Cornell’s lone Ivy League victory last season came against Columbia — a 4-3 victory on April 6 at Reis Tennis Center. The Big Red has won the last five meetings with the Lions in Ivy League play.
Columbia (9-3) has won its last four matches, all on the road, against Southern Mississippi, Florida International, William & Mary and Old Dominion. Junior Nicole Bartnik is the squad’s primary option at No. 1 singles, posting a 6-3 record with sophomores Bianca Sanon and Iani Alecsiu rounding out the top of the lineup. The Lions are 17-11 in doubles matches and while Bartnik and freshman Crystal Leung are ranked 73rd in the country in doubles, they haven’t competed together since dual matches began. Sanon and sophomore Tiana Takenaga (7-3) comprise the team’s No. 1 doubles tandem.
The Big Red men’s team (7-11) will be defend its first league crown in program history after posting a perfect 7-0 in Ivy play last season to secure its first-ever NCAA tournament berth. Five seniors graduated from Cornell’s lineup, but one of the top freshman classes in the country has been seasoned through a demanding non-league schedule that saw the Big Red oppose 11 teams currently ranked 66th or higher by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Cornell won two of those matches — including a Feb. 17 match against Columbia at the ECAC Indoor Championships.
The Lions — unranked at the time, but now tabbed 52nd — were the Big Red’s first-round opponent at ECACs. After dropping the doubles point, Cornell rebounded to win five of the six singles matches to secure a semifinal berth with a 4-2 win over Columbia and cut its deficit in the all-time series to 39-50-1. It was the third consecutive victory for the Big Red in the series, with Cornell winning both of last year’s meeting by identical 6-1 scores.
Since its latest lost to Cornell, Columbia (13-2) dropped a match to St. John’s before rattling off nine straight victories — including an avenging 5-2 victory over St. John’s on March 23. Freshman Winston Lin was the only Lions player to steal a singles point off the Big Red on Feb. 17, winning at the No. 2 spot to kick off what has turned out to be an 11-match winning streak. He is now ranked 102nd in the country by the ITA. Junior John Yetimoglu is undefeated in nine matches from the bottom half of the lineup, and 86th-ranked senior Haig Schneiderman has played all of his matches from the No. 1 position. The Lions are 28-11 in doubles play, with freshmen Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur primarily competing at No. 1.
For the Big Red, freshman Alex Sidney has a team-high nine victories after the team dropped a pair of matches last weekend at Old Dominion and No. 37 VCU. Cornell competed with some of its regulars out of the lineup.