“Let’s go Brozy! Right here.”
The lone shout emanated from the crowd, followed by the eruption of yet another “Let’s go Lions!” chant. Then silence.
Up 7-6 in a third set tiebreaker, Adam Ambrozy held the fate of the match, and the Lions’ claim to sole ownership of the Ivy League title, in his hands. Trailing 2-5 earlier in the tiebreaker, Ambrozy had managed to pull himself out of the deficit, now one point away from sealing the win for the Light Blue.
The stakes were high for the junior. If he fell, there was a high chance the team would miss out on what it had strived for the entire season. This was a thought that rippled throughout the Dick Savitt Tennis Center on Saturday. Perhaps the match would go to Cornell.
Volunteer assistant coach Haig Schneiderman, CC ’12, lifted his arms repeatedly toward the crowd in attempt to rile up the dozens of fans watching intensely from the stands. With the third set tiebreaker starting to wear him down, Ambrozy was beginning to grunt from exhaustion, his swings becoming wilder, less calculated.
But with the support of the masses, and a powerful forehand, Ambrozy ripped the ball back to his opponent after the serve. The entire audience looked on without a sound as the rest of the point played out.
There was a cheer. Then a second. Suddenly, the entire men’s tennis team stormed the court and piled on top of him. His win had clinched the match for Columbia, giving the Light Blue the sole claim to the Ancient Eight crown, and its sixth consecutive championship since 2014.
With a perfect record in Ivy play, the No. 16 Lions (17-3, 7-0 Ivy) won the title outright for the first time since 2016. Senior Victor Pham cited head coach Bid Goswami’s impending retirement at the end of the season as a primary motivator for the team in its quest for the title.
“We want to send Bid out in a winning manner. I’m just glad we got him a sole outright Ivy League title. The past two years we’ve shared it, and that’s great since we got the title, but it’s not as good as this,” Pham said.
The Lions took the early lead in their final match of the regular season. While Ambrozy and sophomore Jason Lui failed to capture a win in doubles, Pham and sophomore Rian Pandole won their match 6-2. The No. 32 pair of senior Will Matheson and sophomore Jack Lin earned the early edge for Columbia with their 6-3 win against No. 37 David Volfson and Daniel Soyfer.
Singles proved to be intense, with five of the six first sets going to Cornell. But the Lions are known as a team defined by their tenacity and will to fight. And fight they did.
No. 33 Pham battled his way through No.100 Alafia Ayeni at first singles. Though dropping the first set 4-6 to Ayeni, Pham had no intention of losing his final Ivy League match. He rallied back to take the win in the second and third sets 6-2, 6-1.
But after Pham’s victory, the team suffered a pair of back-to-back losses.
Sophomore Austen Huang was bested by Cornell’s Evan Bynoe 7-6, 6-2.
Senior Timothy Wang fell in his first set 6-3 to Eero Vasa. Things were looking up for Wang as he managed to defeat Vasa 6-3 in the second set, and he started off strong in the tiebreaker, scoring an early two points. But ultimately, he could not fend off Vasa, losing the third set 6-2.
These two losses brought Cornell and Columbia to a 2-2 tie.
No. 22 Jack Lin was the only Columbia player to win his match in two sets. After repeated reminders from Goswami to stay calm and take his time, Lin battled past Volfson 6-4, 6-4.
Lin’s match gave the Light Blue a 3-2 lead, but tensions remained high. Shouts of “Let’s go Lions” from students, parents, alumni, and faculty punctuated the stands on both remaining courts, the Lions were trailing the Big Red as No. 107 Pandole and No. 122 Ambrozy both fought through tiebreakers.
After dropping the first set 6-3, Ambrozy rallied in the second set against Lev Kazakov, winning 6-2. The third set ensued, with Ambozy and Kazakov eventually heading to a tiebreaker.
Soon came the call of “Let’s go Brozy! Right here.” And Ambrozy delivered.
The match not only marked the milestone of six consecutive titles, but also Goswami’s last Ivy match and last home regular season match.
“I never thought about how it would end,” Goswami reflected after the win. “But I remember so many matches over the 37 years, some good, some bad. … This was definitely one of the best matches.”
The Lions will begin the NCAA Tournament next weekend. The men’s tennis selection show will take place on Monday, April 29 at 6 p.m.
Harris Walker and Rahil Kamath contributed reporting.