Entering the weekend with a 2–1 Ivy League record and in contention for the Ivy League title, Princeton men’s tennis (18–9 overall, 2–3 Ivy League) faced the 16th-ranked Columbia Lions (14–3, 4–0) at home on Friday and then traveled to Ithaca to take on Cornell (13–8, 4–0) on Sunday.
“We knew it would be a tough weekend,” said head coach Billy Pate; Cornell and Columbia were both undefeated in Ivy League play. Despite a strong start against league-favorite Columbia, the Tigers seemed to lose their stride. They fell 2–5 to the Lions and then 1–4 in matches against Cornell.
“We felt like we needed to win at least one of the matches this past weekend to qualify for the NCAA [tournament] at-large,” Pate said. “Those would have been really good opportunities, particularly Columbia.”
Early in Friday’s Lion-Tiger matchup, it seemed Princeton would capitalize on its opportunity. The Tigers jumped out to an early advantage, winning two of three doubles matches in tie-breakers. Singles play started on a good note as well, only to be stopped due to rain — something Pate described simply as “unfortunate.”
The Princeton team, which had gathered momentum on the outdoor courts, had to move into Jadwin Gym to finish its matches. Although the singles matches generally remained close contests, only first-year Will Peters was able to seal the deal and come away with a victory.
After a Saturday off, Princeton then took on Cornell on the Big Red’s turf. It was the Tigers’ first road game of three in the Ivy League season, which may have played a role in their uncharacteristic, unexpected loss.
“It was senior day for Cornell and they had a good crowd on hand. I don’t know if we had the sense of urgency we needed in doubles and that was pivotal,” Pate said.
Once again, Princeton’s only singles win would come from Will Peters, this time in three sets. However, two matches remained unfinished; with some quick singles wins, Cornell clinched an early victory.
The outing was a disappointing outing for the Tigers — it effectively put an end to the team’s dream of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Now, we’re on the outside looking in,” Pate said in reference to the possibility of an automatic qualification.
Princeton has two more matches — both away — next weekend against Brown and Yale. If the Tigers want a shot at the tournament, they will need to come back to Princeton on Sunday with two more victories under their belt.