There was no first-place trophy or title pennant for the men’s and women’s tennis teams to raise over their heads on Sunday at the end of the 2012 National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships. But against the best collegiate tennis players in the nation, the Lions held their own on the court and took away six wins in their last competition of the fall.
“Maybe we don’t have much to show in terms of results, but if you looked at the scores and who we played, you’d know our opponents were the best in the country and we still played well,” men’s head coach Bid Goswami said.
The Light Blue sent four men and three women to the prestigious national tournament, which Columbia hosted for the third straight year at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
Though the Lions’ three doubles teams and three singles players had an unfavorable start to the tournament on Thursday—losing all six of their opening-round matches—they bounced back in the consolation draws.
After dropping her first-round singles match in two sets, Columbia senior Nicole Bartnik came back with two strong wins—one of which came against USC’s Zoe Scandalis, the No. 7 player in the nation—before falling in the consolation bracket semifinals.
“Nikki was coming to the net, and she was coming to the net with authority,” women’s head coach Ilene Weintraub said. “I felt like she was really controlling the rallies.”
The men’s side also had success in the singles bracket, where sophomores Winston Lin and Ashok Narayana represented the Lions.
Narayana’s 6-4, 6-4 loss in the first round came against Virginia senior Jarmere Jenkins, who went on to win the tournament’s singles title.
Lin also suffered an early loss, but he pushed his match against USC’s Ray Sarmiento—who is ranked ninth nationally—to three sets, eventually falling 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In the consolation bracket, Lin succeeded in notching a three-set victory over North Carolina’s Esben Hess-Olesen before falling to Georgia senior KU Singh.
Despite losing his match in the consolation singles draw in two sets, Narayana had more success with his doubles partner, sophomore Max Schnur.
In their first match, the pair narrowly lost, 9-8(4), to the tournament’s No. 3 seed—Virginia’s Jenkins and Mac Styslinger. The following day, Narayana and Schnur had a strong 8-5 win against a North Florida team that was the runner-up in the ITA Southeast Regionals.
Though the Light Blue duo was knocked out of the tournament in the next round with a loss to another doubles team from Virginia, Goswami said he expects Narayana and Schnur’s performance at Indoors—along with their success earlier this fall—to earn them a high ranking in the spring.
“I’m pretty positive they should be ranked in the top 20 in the country, which is a feat in itself,” Goswami said.
On the women’s side, Light Blue juniors Bianca Sanon and Tiana Takenaga are also contenders to be a ranked doubles team in 2013.
In the first round, Sanon and Takenaga nearly upset the tournament’s No. 3 seed, Maria Belaya and Jeltje Loomans of William and Mary. But with the score tied five-all and Takenaga serving, the William and Mary doubles team broke the Lions’ serve and held on for the 8-6 victory.
Sanon and Takenaga quickly bounced back from their loss, upsetting the No. 9 doubles team in the nation—Stanford’s Stacey Tan and Ellen Tsay—before falling in the consolation semifinals.
“I wasn’t surprised they had that win over Stanford,” Weintraub said. “Bianca and Tiana, for me, are at that level. But I think they needed that result to prove it to themselves.”
Also in doubles, Lin and fellow sophomore Bert Vancura recorded an 8-0 win against Illinois in the back draw, after having lost to the eventual tournament finalists from Georgia.
Based on the Lions’ performance at Indoor Nationals and during the earlier part of the fall, both Light Blue coaches expressed optimism for the coming spring season.
“These results from this weekend, and the entire fall season ... all of that is just going to motivate and inspire them to work hard over winter break and just keep improving on the little things,” Weintraub said.