The No. 16 men's tennis team (20-1, 7-0 Ivy) completed a historic season—reaching a program-best national ranking of No. 16, bringing home its first-ever national championship in doubles, and sweeping one of the strongest Ivy Leagues in recent memory.
And the Lions aren't done yet.
At NCAA Regionals in Nashville, Tennessee, this weekend, the top-seeded Lions notched two wins to advance to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 later this month. The Light Blue extended its run to 20 with a 4-0 sweep of East Tennessee State for its first-ever NCAA Tournament win, and a nail-biting win over regional host No. 19 Vanderbilt. The Commodores took the doubles point and Nos. 2 and 3 singles, while the Lions took Nos. 4, 5, and 6 singles, leaving the match to be decided in the top singles match, where No. 18 Winston Lin recovered from losing the first set to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 for the Light Blue.
While Lin went undefeated in the regular season, the Lions' depth after Lin really shone all season.
The first big highlight of the year came when the No. 12 tandem of juniors Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur took advantage of a host wildcard bid to claim the USTA/ITA Indoor National Championship. En route, they had to top several tough duos, including Tennessee's No. 1 team of Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese, which they beat in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.
“We knew we could beat any team,” Schnur said after Indoor Nationals. “But now we actually won a championship.”
“We are excited,” head coach Bid Goswami added. “We have our work cut out for us because now everyone will be gunning for us, but it's great to win this and have a national championship under our belt.”
The team headed to Hanover, New Hampshire, in February for the ECAC Championships. Among a stout field of teams that included seven of the eight Ivies, Columbia entered the tournament seeded second, but outclassed Princeton, Dartmouth, and Harvard on its way to the title.
“The hard work that has been put in since September is starting to pay off, and I hope the team is enjoying the results of their hard work,” Goswami said after the win.
From February on, the Light Blue sat atop the Ivy League, where it would remain for the rest of the spring. The Lions only dropped one point during its sweep of the Ivies. Goswami said that the hard work and consistency of the players led to their success.
“We've been knocking on the door, but we had to take it upon ourselves,” Goswami said. “Like I've said to the players, they have actually been putting in the work since September, so now it's time to enjoy the fruits of the labor they put in.”
Schnur said that the biggest turnaround for the team came when the coaching staff and players made doubles a focus.
“We felt like we were the best team in singles,” Schnur said. “But we felt like we were having to come from behind a lot. So we started doing a lot of doubles drills and we ended up 7-0 in the league in doubles. We never had to come from behind, so we used that to just roll guys.”
“There were three or four points that were crucial in every match, and we got them,” Goswami said. “These guys just never quit. It's a really good feeling for a coach to have. We are never out of it. Other teams could beat us, but we'll never be out of it.”
The final rounds of the NCAA Tournament will be held from May 16 to 20 in Athens, Georgia. Columbia's next match will be against No. 1 USC on May 16.
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