If a strong recruiting class is the sign of a strong team, then women’s tennis is primed to be the best in the Ivy League. Armed with four powerful first-years and coming off a 2018-19 season that saw the team’s second-highest wins-to-losses ratio in the program’s history, the Lions are on the precipice of a dominant season.
Head coach Ilene Weintraub worked hard to prepare the first-years for their first travel tournament, claiming that making them comfortable in both collegiate play and at Columbia, in general, is instrumental for their success. However, she couldn’t help but laud the effort of the players and their natural talents.
“We did do some individual work with our first-years going into this tournament after watching them last weekend. It’s all about getting them acclimated academically and in a new environment,” she said. “More than anything, though, their skill level, willingness, and ability to be coached was evident this weekend. They’re really coachable, and the results showed.”
At the University of Pennsylvania’s Cissie Leary Invitational, the team’s first-years stole the show, capturing both a doubles and a singles title.
First-years Michelle Xu and Julia Haynes clinched the Flight B doubles title on Saturday. The pair, who also won the Flight D doubles title at the Columbia Invitational on September 15, currently sits at a record of 8-0.
They played junior Jennifer Kerr and first-year Shivani Amineni in an all-Columbia final. Xu and Haynes triumphed in a 6-4 victory over the other pair of Lions.
Xu took the Westchester Draw singles title at the Columbia Invitational and remains at a perfect record of 9-0 in singles for the tournament season. Both Xu and Haynes are still in contention to win the Flight B singles title, and they will play for the championship on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Weintraub sees the success of these two first-years as a testament to their grit and perseverance.
“They swept the entire tournament. They won the doubles and are now playing each other in the championships of the singles. They put the work in and basically didn’t lose a match all weekend,” Weintraub said.
Despite this being the first road tournament of their young careers, the first-years were able to defeat Ivy league foes from Penn and Harvard over the past two weeks. If the Light Blue plans on winning its second Ancient Eight crown, then it will be imperative for the team to continue to improve upon its performances.
Next weekend, the netwomen will compete in the West Point Invitational from Friday, Sept. 27 to Sunday, Sept. 29. The invitational team will be made up of members of the Lions who did not travel to Pennsylvania, and Weintraub is excited to give different players more experience moving forward in the season.
“We’re trying to give everybody on our team as many opportunities to prove themselves and get a lot of wins under their belts before the spring dual match season,” Weintraub said.
For the men’s tennis team, this past weekend marked a turning point. At Princeton’s Ivy Plus tournament, the Lions played without the guidance of former head coach Bid Goswami for the first time in 37 years.
But even without the man responsible for revolutionizing the Columbia men’s tennis program, the Light Blue left Princeton with a singles title.
Jack Lin, who is currently No. 9 in the nation in singles, won his singles draw at Ivy Plus in 2018 and was able to find similar success this season.
Lin, a 2019 NCAA All-American, clinched the Tiger Draw on Sunday. Lin—whose playing style has been described as a mental game that lets his competitors stumble rather than using active, aggressive play—did not falter.
The junior triumphed over all four of his competitors in straight sets, including an Ivy League foe from Brown. The championship came down to Lin and Texas' Evin McDonald, 6-3, 6-1.
The rest of the Lions team, however, was unable to find the same success as Lin.
Sophomore Ben Gollin, making his first appearance since the tour season last fall, was defeated in the first round 6-1, 6-3. Gollin did not fare much better in doubles. He and partner junior Jason Lui fought through a hard battle but were eventually bested by a Yale pair 8-7 (7).
Lui would go on to fall in the third round of competition while fellow junior Austen Huang would rally to his draw’s championship. But Huang would eventually be taken down by Harris Walker from Harvard 6-3, 6-3.
Whether the Lions will be able to come back with the same fervor they had last dual season is to be determined. With a new coaching staff and a new singles and doubles lineup, the Light Blue will have more to prove than ever before if it wants to win its seventh consecutive Ivy League title.
Lin will travel to Malibu on Friday for the Oracle ITA Masters tournament, while the rest of the team will play the UVA Blue & Orange Classic that same weekend.