Last weekend at the Cornell Invitational, senior co-captain Sarah O’Neil won the “A” Flight Singles final. O’Neil lost the first set 3-6, but dug deep to hold on to the next two sets, 6-1, 6-3. O’Neil not only had to overcome a first-set deficit to win the match, but she also had to battle back against a teammate and good friend. Her opponent, junior Ryann Young, confirmed that Sarah’s victory was a testament to the hard work she has dedicated to Cornell tennis for the past four years.
“Every time Sarah and I play it’s really competitive because we have pretty much the same style of play,” Young said. “At first she wasn’t playing that well, but then she found a way to come back. She just fought really hard, was really competitive and found a way to win.”
O’Neil’s co-captain, senior Christine Ordway, affirmed Sarah’s determination off court has had a major impact on her success during matches.
“She’s definitely improved tremendously tennis-wise,” Ordway said. “I know freshman year she played sixth and then last year she was playing one. That’s an incredible improvement I think, definitely all due to her work ethic and how hard she practices every single day.”
O’Neil is also a strong doubles player, being named 52nd in doubles (with sophomore Lauren Frazier) in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s preseason rankings. Her role on the team is definitely one of a leadership position and her teammates certainly admire the effort she puts into the game.
“Obviously we all look up to her,” Young said. “We all respect her and she’s pretty much a role model for everyone.”
Ordway added that O’Neil is “someone who you want out there in the third set deciding the match because you know she’s going to put 100 percent out there every match. She puts 100 percent into everything she does. She’s incredibly dedicated ... Over the past three years, she’s definitely become an incredible leader with the team.”
And, because of this, Ordway said “there’s no one I’d rather be captain with and no one I’d rather share this experience with.”
Next weekend, the women head down to Philadelphia, Pa. for the Cissie Leary Invitational. Young is sure that the combination of O’Neil’s leadership and the experience of having already played one official tournament will help the Red in its upcoming match.
“Since we have one tournament under our belt, for the freshmen, they won’t have as many nerves,” she said. “We all just need to focus on playing each match with a purpose to get us ready for the dual match, the team style matches in the spring.”
“We’re coming off a pretty good weekend, where we had some good results and I thought everyone played, overall, pretty well,” Ordway added. “So going off of that, we kind of want to practice really hard this coming week, keep up the intensity, and look forward to playing a lot of really good schools at Cissie Leary. [Sarah] and I are just looking for everyone to put 100 percent into every match and 100 percent into practice this week and I think we’ll do great.”