NEW YORK – The Columbia men’s tennis team will ride a nine-match winning streak to Ithaca, N.Y. this weekend, as the 13-2 Lions will open their Ivy League season against rival Cornell, Saturday, March 31st at 2 p.m. Columbia will be looking to avenge a loss to the Big Red from the ECAC Tournament in February. 

Scouting the Big Red
Cornell was the team to beat in 2010-11, except that no one in the Ivy League was able to. The Big Red went 26-5 overall last season, including a perfect 7-0 in Ivy League play to claim the program’s first-ever outright Ivy League title. The team graduated five seniors, however, so 2011-12 brings a completely new lineup on the court. 

Cornell brought in one of the strongest recruiting classes in the league, and that class has been put to the test early, as the Big Red have faced 11 teams ranked 66th or higher by the ITA.  Currently, Cornell is 7-11 overall, but a strong 6-1 on their home courts. The Big Red will be looking to snap a three-match losing streak Saturday, as Penn State, Old Dominion and VCU have all bested Cornell in the last two weeks. 

This is the second time the two teams will face off this season. February 17th, Cornell came out on top, beating the Lions 4-2 at the ECAC tournament in Hanover, N.H. The Lions took the doubles point to go up 1-0 early on. First-years Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur upset the then-#35 nationally-ranked duo of Venkat Iyer and Alex Sidney, 9-8 in the No.1 spot, and Nathaniel Gery and Tizian Bucher had a big win at No.2, 8-5, to clinch the point. But Cornell was able to rally in singles and take four wins to clinch the match. First-year Winston Lin had Columbia’s singles point, as he beat Sam Fleck, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, and first-year Narayana was up in the third in the No.4 spot when the match was called, 6-7, 6-4, 4-0. Both senior Haig Schneiderman and Gery fell in three sets at Nos. 1 and 3, putting the match closer than the team score indicated. 

Last Time Out 
Columbia has suffered only two losses this season, and exacted revenge on St. John’s for one of them last week. The Lions beat then-#60 St. John’s 5-2 at the USTA National Tennis Center, March 23. Lin had an upset win for the Lions in the No.2 spot, as he beat #40 Vasko Mladenov, 6-3, 7-6, for his 12th-straight singles win. Narayana clinched the team win for the Lions in the No.4 spot, as he rallied from being down 5-2 in the third set to take a win. 

The only other loss Columbia has suffered this year was to Cornell, a defeat the Lions will look avenge this weekend. 

By the Numbers 
The Lions entered the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) national rankings a couple of weeks ago in the 60s, after beating TCU and SMU during their spring break trip. And a win over then-#60 (now #58) St. John’s only helped Columbia’s case. The Lions jumped 10 spots in the last week, and now stand at #52 in the nation, their highest ranking so far this season. Cornell, who held a ranking of #50 the last time they faced the Lions, have fallen out of the top 75. 

Columbia also has two players ranked nationally for the first time in recent memory. Senior co-captain Haig Schneiderman has been a staple in the national rankings since his outstanding performance at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, and currently sits at #86 in the country. Tuesday, he was joined by first-year Winston Lin, who entered the rankings for the first time in his collegiate career, at #102. 

Up Next 
After opening the Ivy League season on the road, Columbia will return home to the Dick Savitt Tennis Center to take on two more tough opponents. Saturday, April 7, the Lions will host #61 Dartmouth, and follow that up by hosting #20 Harvard, Sunday, April 8. First serves for both matches will be at 2 p.m.