Bulls strong at Cornell

The Spectrum

The Bulls could not catch a break these past few months due to injuries and nationally ranked competition.

Last weekend, the men's tennis team looked to end this difficult fall season on a high note.

The Bulls competed in the Cornell Invitational at the Reis Tennis Center, where they went against Navy, Duquesne and Fairleigh Dickinson. Despite strong performances, Buffalo found out that it must improve to achieve its goals for the season.

Junior Wojciech Starakiewicz posted a marquee performance over the weekend. With his flawless play on Sunday, Starakiewicz won the A-1 singles title.

"I think he is at a level [higher] than… last year," said head coach Lee Nickell. "In the last three weeks, he made steps that improved the way he competes, and we're seeing him play his best tennis right now."

Starakiewicz did not drop a set in the entire competition. He clinched the title by defeating top-seeded Max Haskin of Cornell, 6-2, 6-4. The win puts Starakiewicz in a good position to see his name in the national rankings at some point this season.

"I think he still has a long way to go," Nickell said. "But still, I think he is one of the top 50 players in the country."

Victories would not come so easily in the other brackets.

Sophomore Vusa Hove finished in third place in the A-2 singles. After sweeping his first two opponents, Hove fell to Cornell's Andy Gauthier in the semifinal round, 6-2, 7-6. Hove redeemed himself in the third-place match with a three-set victory over Cornell's Chris Song, 6-7, 6-2, 6-2.

After dropping his opening match, junior Kristof Custers earned two victories in the A-2 consolation bracket. He went on to win the consolation final in straight sets over Duquesne's Steve Herchko, 6-2, 6-4.

Freshman Jason Shkodnik lost in the B flight consolation final to Duquesne's Matt Smith, 7-6, 6-4. After dropping the match, Shkodnik joined with Custers to win the B doubles consolation bracket with an 8-1 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson's Manuel Kaire and Guillermo Paiz.

The team's performance at the Cornell Invitational was a solid ending to what was a harsh fall season.

"We were snake bit in the fall with injuries and sickness," Nickell said. "But overall, for what we had to deal with, we did an exceptional job facing our obstacles and overcoming adversities."

Despite the moderate improvements throughout the season, Nickell believes his players are a little behind in their progress.

"I don't think we're where we need to be, and I don't think the team [thinks so either]," Nickell said. "We still got a lot of work to do if we're going to make another run at the MAC title and establish ourselves as one of the top teams in the country."

The men's tennis team begins its championship defense this winter when it starts dual competition.