TOC Fall Invitational
Ashley Marshall | November 15, 2019
At the 2019 Tennis On Campus USTA Eastern Section championship in October, Cornell University proved once again it was the top team in the region.
Fast forward two weeks to the Fall Invitational in Cary, N.C., and the experienced and talented Big Red roster reminded club tennis teams across the country that it remains a leading contender for a National Championship in 2020.
Cornell defeated fellow first-time Fall Invitational finalists and hometown favorites North Carolina State University in the championship match, making it a fourth consecutive year with a different school taking home the silverware.
“We’re a team that loves tennis, and we all have a similar experience because we all played competitively in middle school and high school,” said Cornell senior co-captain Olia Javidi, a 21-year-old operations research and information engineering major from San Diego.
“But in college we really wanted to be in a vigorous academic setting, which is why we came to Cornell.
I think, for us, tennis is something we truly love, and that’s what really brings our team together. We’ve been making steady improvements, and I think this year is our strongest team ever. We know we have what it takes.”
Cornell defeated MIT, George Mason University and UNC Wilmington to go a perfect 3-0 in pool play and advance to the gold bracket.
Into the knockout stages of the tournament, Big Red continued its momentum with victories over Duke University, the University of Miami and the University of Florida, setting up a final showdown against NC State, the only other school still undefeated to that point.
After strong performances in the men’s and women’s doubles matches, Cornell had an early lead in the final. NC State had the better early exchanges in both singles matches, before former Cornell varsity standout Ana Elhorn overturned an 0-4 deficit to win 6-4 in the women's singles set and Dupei Yu won three of the final four games from 1-5 down in losing 6-4 to ensure Big Red kept a healthy lead going into mixed doubles. Tennis On Campus utilizes World TeamTennis rules, affording the team that is trailing to keep playing if they win the final set until they either tie the match or lose a game.
Leading by 10 entering the final mixed doubles match, Cornell co-captains Javidi and Kevin Zhang lost the set and were pushed into overtime before Zhang served it out to seal the victory.
“It was a good time,” said NC State captain Davis Cromer, who was on the team that finished in third place at Nationals last year. “We got into the semis the past two years here and so the goal was to win, but getting second place is still the best we’ve ever done. We keep getting record placements, so hopefully eventually we’ll win this thing for once.”
NC State’s quarterfinal match against the University of Georgia and its semifinal against Ohio State University came down to the mixed doubles, with the Wolfpack winning both matches by a combined six games. But Jiang and Antoine were unable to continue the magic against Cornell, instead having to settle for a second-place finish. Davis said his team was disappointed to lose, but he was proud of the effort everyone made.
“I’m so proud of our team,” said Davis, a 20-year-old sophomore business administration major with a concentration in finance, from Durham, N.C. “That was the first big tournament for me as president and leading the team, so it was awesome to experience such a big moment. We have a bunch of good freshmen and sophomores, and even though we are senior-heavy, we do have a future past next year.”
For Cornell, the focus remains on building a strong, cohesive club and then preparing for a deep run at Nationals at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., in April.
“We have a really solid team overall, and this past semester and the semester before we’ve tried to focus on making sure we are a close team so it’s as much about what we do off the court as it is what we do on the court,” said Javidi, whose team defended its section championship in New York City in October, earning the school its fifth championship in six years and its 12th title in the 15-year history of the competition.
“We have a lot of social events and make sure that we’re all super close, really good friends. It makes going to tournaments a lot better and more successful. We’re all experienced members of the team, and this was one of our favorite tournaments to go to outside of Nationals, so we really wanted to make sure the seniors that were leaving had an opportunity to come out and enjoy it, and that made the experience really good.”
Cornell’s team consisted of sophomore Connie Hou; juniors Hannah Park, Javidi, Zhang, Yu, Elhorn and Junghwan Oh; and seniors Caroline Zhou, Sam Heinrich and Chris Paradis.
NC State’s roster featured freshman Livia Popa; sophomore Cromer; foreign exchange student Pierre Antoine; and seniors Evan Greer, Hawthorne Buck and Sarah Jiang.