Kali Duffy / Senior Staff Photographer
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The Dynasty: How men’s tennis has dominated the Ivy League and risen to national prominence
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Natalie Guerra / Staff Photographer
Men's Tennis

For men’s tennis, breaking records has quite simply become a broken record. Every scratch, in this case, is an Ivy League title—the team wrapped up its fifth consecutive Ancient Eight victory with a 4-0 triumph over Cornell on Saturday.

With this title in hand, men’s tennis now has 15 total, 13 of which have been won under current head coach Bid Goswami in his 36 years in Morningside Heights. The team also was ranked as highly as No. 5 nationally this season, before settling in its current position of No. 16 as of last week.

The Lions started off strong in the fall as junior Victor Pham, who was once ranked as high as No. 7 in the nation, qualified for the finals of the Oracle Intercollegiate Tennis Association Masters in Malibu. In that tournament, Pham topped Wake Forest’s Petros Chrysochos, who has been ranked No. 1 in the nation during his college tennis career and plays for the No. 1 ranked team in college tennis, per the International Tennis Association rankings.

At the ITA Northeast Regional Championships, the Lions flexed their muscles once again, dominating the tournament en route to a singles championship for Pham and another all-Columbia doubles final, where the pair of junior Will Matheson and first-year Jack Lin captured the doubles crown. The Lions swept both the singles and doubles titles for the first time in program history.

Coming into the dual season, perhaps the most pressing question was whether the Lions would return to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships after narrowly missing out a season before.

The Lions not only qualified for the championships with two dominant victories in Charlottesville, Virginia but eventually topped two ranked teams, including then-No. 9 Oklahoma State, accelerating Columbia’s rise to national prominence.

The Light Blue did, however, struggle with injuries in the spring campaign. Pham battled a shoulder injury, sophomore Alex Keyser suffered a knee injury, and junior Timothy Wang missed key Ivy League matchups due to illness.

This capitulated in the team’s first Ancient Eight home loss since 2011 to Dartmouth, where the Big Green came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to top the Lions 4-3, leaving the crowd of dedicated alumni and friends of the program stunned.

But despite the team’s second Ivy loss in five seasons, it would prove resilient when it mattered most, sweeping Brown, Yale, and Cornell en route to a fifth straight Ancient Eight crown.

Either way, the men’s tennis season will endure, as the team hopes to head back to the sweet 16 for the first time since the 2015 season and perhaps further.

As the NCAA draw was released on Tuesday, it was revealed that men’s tennis would indeed host an NCAA Regional for the first time in program history. The team’s first match will be against Monmouth at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing on Friday, May 12th. Play is set to begin at 1 p.m. | @CUSpecSports

Women's Tennis

With a combination of veteran leadership and new talent, women’s tennis bounced back from last year’s disappointing season and managed to finish the year with the third-best record in the Ivy League, finishing at 12-8 overall with a 4-3 record in Ivy play.

The Lions opened the season strong, sweeping their first two matches of the year and winning three of their first four. They then went on to lose two consecutive matches at home against nationally-ranked Kentucky and Maryland.

Beginning during their annual spring break road trip to southern Florida, the Lions won five of their next six matches, including a five-match winning streak, which they maintained from mid-March through mid-April and into the first two matches of Ivy play.

The team battled its way through a cold streak during the core of Ivy League play as it faced off against Princeton—which finished the year undefeated against Ivy League competition—and Harvard and Dartmouth, who rounded out the top of the Ivy standings alongside Columbia.

The Lions were able to finish the year as well as they started, however, as they closed out the season with a two-match homestand, during which they soundly defeated both Brown and Yale.

Throughout the season, Columbia was led by three key players: first-year Jennifer Kerr and co-captains junior Andrea Kevakian and senior Adi Milstein. Kevakian led the team in singles wins this season, finishing with an overall record of 23-7. No member of the women’s tennis team has won 23 matches in a season since Tina Jiang finished 26-2 in 2014.

Milstein had a similarly excellent year. Despite battling injuries for most of the season, she wrapped up her collegiate career with a season in which she went 14-6 and successfully held down the sixth singles position.

Milstein was also part of the team’s most successful double’s pairing, playing alongside first-year Christie Wan. Milstein and Wan finished the year with a record of 21-10. The duo also reached the national rankings at one point this season after defeating Florida International University’s top doubles team, which had previously been ranked No. 9 in the nation.

Kerr finished her first college season with a 21-9 singles record and an unbelievable 6-1 record in Ivy League play, with her lone loss coming against nationally ranked Princeton. Over the course of the year, she displayed exceptional poise and composure, especially considering her role as a first-year.

The team also saw healthy contributions from sophomore Ali Pollack, who finished the year 17-9 in singles play, and junior Sarah Hu, who finished with a 17-13 record.

After losing several upperclassmen last year and having to integrate four new first-year players into the team, the Lions looked poised to begin a quick rebuild. Instead, they exceeded expectations and, now armed with a young and dangerous lineup and a top-ranked recruiting class, are expected to contest the Ivy League for years to come. | @CUSpecSports

Kali Duffy / Senior Staff Photographer

When senior quarterback Anders Hill found sophomore wideout Josh Wainwright in the back of the end zone to give the Lions a miraculous, come-from-behind overtime victory on homecoming against Penn, the Light Blue loyals who have followed the team for years were in awe at what they had just witnessed.

After that 34-31 homecoming victory, football sat at 5-0 for the first time since 1996 and would go on to finish 8-2 in the team’s most successful season since that legendary year. The 1996 team, while successful, was a fluke: the years before and after that season had cemented Columbia’s seemingly everlasting legacy of being a bottom-dweller in football.

That changed in 2015, when current head coach Al Bagnoli—who won 9 Ivy titles in 22 seasons at Penn—was hired to change the culture at Columbia. Bagnoli inherited a team on a long losing streak and that had won just one Ancient Eight title in its history. With just five combined victories in his first two seasons aboard, Bagnoli was optimistic that the 2017 season would provide a platform on which the team could improve.

But not even he could have expected the team’s sudden rise to a second-place finish in the Ivy League.

It started with a momentous victory at Princeton—the defending Ivy League Champions—as the Lions pulled off a 28-24 triumph after sophomore wide receiver Ronald Smith caught a pass from Hill and sprinted past the Princeton defenders for the go-ahead score.

Hill, in particular, was tremendous at Princeton, as his 400 yards through the air represented the first time a Columbia signal-caller hit the four-century mark since 2011.

It was the team’s first victory against its New Jersey rivals since 2010 and its first victory in Princeton’s stadium since 2009.

In what was an otherwise unremarkable 41-17 victory the next weekend against Marist, four football players knelt or remained seated during the national anthem as the players entered themselves into a national discussion surrounding an issue largely publicized by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

That win would set the stage for the homecoming showdown, in which the Lions snapped a 20-game losing streak against Penn and Bagnoli beat his former school for the first time.

The next week the Lions continued their undefeated run, topping Dartmouth 22-17 in controversial fashion.

But the team’s undefeated stretch would come to an end, as the eventual Ivy League Champion Yale and longtime Columbia nemesis Harvard got the best of the 2017 Lions. But after winning the rest of its remaining games, the Light Blue finished 8-2 overall for the first time since 1996 and came up just short in a competitive Ivy League.

The seniors, including Hill, departed Morningside Heights on a high note as they improved on their five total wins from their first three seasons to finish with a total of 13 in their four-year career. Bagnoli was particularly happy for the seniors who had originally been recruits of former head coach Pete Mangurian and his staff and had experienced the lows of a rebuilding program. He praised their ability to help solidify the foundation for years to come.

That foundation has been largely aided by the Lions’ superb recruiting classes under Bagnoli, headlined by the players in the No. 2 class in the nation, who will become juniors next fall. Wainwright, Smith, kicker Oren Milstein, and defensive lineman Daniel DeLorenzi headline the class, while younger players like quarterbacks Josh Bean and Dillon Davis will attempt to replace Hill in the fall as sophomores.

Bagnoli and company will attempt to bring the program’s second-ever title to Morningside Heights next season. But for now, as spring turns to summer, many Lions will begin to prepare for the 2018 season, where expectations will continue to remain high and the era of Bagnoli may come to a zenith that once seemed out of reach. | @CUSpecSports

Kali Duffy / Senior Staff Photographer
Women's Soccer

After an up-and-down start to the season against nonconference competitors, Columbia (9-5-2 overall, 5-1-1 Ivy) gave a near-flawless performance in the second half of its schedule to put itself in contention for the program’s second-ever Ivy League title. In their final two games, however, the Lions fell to Yale 1-0 and tied with Harvard 0-0 in double overtime, ceding first place to Princeton.

The Lions faced a similar outcome last year; a 2-1 overtime loss to Yale in the semifinal match followed by a 2-1 double overtime loss to Harvard in the finals thwarted the team’s chances for the crown, making this year’s loss especially poignant for returning players.

Despite the disappointing finish, this season marked one of Columbia’s strongest ever. Women’s soccer earned a second place spot in the conference, its best since winning its only Ivy League title in 2006. The Lions also went on a six-game winning streak at the start of conference play, shutting out Wagner by 11 goals to top the program’s 30-year-old scoring record of 10 goals.

Columbia found its stride behind the offensive leadership of senior midfielder Natalie Neshat, junior forward Emma Anderson, junior forward Amaris Hemmings, and sophomore forward Emily Koe, who all earned All-Ivy League honors. Neshat received first-team honors, while Anderson and Hemmings were named to the second team and Koe was selected for an honorable mention.

Columbia produced an equally formidable defensive front with the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and NCAA All-East Region selection senior Natalie Ambrose, All-Ivy Second Team selection sophomore Amalya Johnson, and All-Ivy Honorable Mention selection junior Reilly Lucas, collectively guarding the backline.

All-Ivy Second-Team selection junior goalkeeper Sophie Whitehouse rounded out Columbia’s defensive force, allowing only one goal for an impressive .964 save percentage. Columbia recorded a league-best of six shutouts and a 0.13 goals-against-average during the season.

Although the Lions will graduate Neshat and Ambrose in May, as well as seniors Holly Neshat, Caroline Militello, and Kerry Manion, the team will see the return of the majority of its key players to continue its quest for a championship finish.

Head coach Tracey Bartholomew will also return for her fifth season to continue leading the Lions through the ranks. Women’s soccer has improved its conference record and ranking every year since Bartholomew’s tenure began. Columbia will look to continue this trend with a first-place finish next fall. | @CUSpecSports

Men's Soccer

After 89 minutes of scoreless play in the second round of the NCAA tournament, men’s soccer was only moments away from forcing the best team in the country into extra time.

At the end of the 2017 season, the Lions (12-3-3, 5-1-1 Ivy) earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, Columbia’s first since 1993.

In the first game of the tournament, Columbia defeated William and Mary. The Tribe scored in the 31st minute and the Lions were down 1-0 at halftime, but the dual efforts of junior defender Nike Azuma and senior defender and midfielder Zach Morant brought an equalizer in the 77th minute. The wing-back sent the ball into the Lions’ offensive box and Morant headed the ball home.

After one hundred minutes, the two sides were still tied and went into double overtime. Less than three minutes into the period, senior defender Alex Bangerl’s headed chance hit the post, but junior forward Kynan Rocks secured the rebound to put the Lions through to the next round.

The Light Blue then traveled to North Carolina for the tournament’s second round to challenge Wake Forest, the No. 1 seed.

The Lions ended up conceding just once to the Demon Deacons, after Wake Forest converted a penalty kick in the 89th minute—the Lions’ eighth conceded goal all season.

Getting to that point, however, was not easy. The Lion’s road to the NCAA Tournament was rattled after Dartmouth snagged the Ivy League title and the guaranteed tournament bid that comes along with it. On Oct. 21, the Big Green beat the Lions 2-1 in Hanover, forcing them to hope for an at-large bid that they would eventually receive. Before Columbia’s loss, the two teams had boasted identical Ivy records of 2-0-1.

The Lions’ defense played a key role in earning Columbia that at-large bid. The team led the Ivy League in fewest goals conceded per game with an average of 0.44, and junior goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira secured 11 shutouts, leading the Ivy League with a save percentage of 0.846.

On the offensive end, senior Arthur Bosua packed his final season as a Lion with numerous recognitions. In addition to leading the Ivy League in shots, points, and goals, Bosua was also named a United Soccer Coaches Division I Men's Soccer All-American and a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy. In the Lions’ final home game of the season against Harvard, Bosua contributed a career high of four goals to Columbia’s 6-0 shutout, bringing a remarkable close to his time at Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium.

After arguably their best season in 25 years, the Lions set high expectations for their upcoming 2018 season in the fall. | @CUSpecSports

Aliya Schneider / Columbia Daily Spectator
Men's Basketball

Exactly 50 years after men’s basketball won its only Ivy title in its history, this year’s team hoped to replicate that feat under second-year head coach Jim Engles.

But the team began the season with a brutal seven-game road stretch, going 1-6 against difficult opponents and never putting it together over the course of the season.

Finishing at 8-19 overall and 5-9 in the Ivy League, the Lions came up just short of making the second annual Ivy League tournament for the second straight season, as they had an opportunity to advance to the postseason during their last weekend of conference play at Dartmouth and Harvard. Despite numerous chances, the team did not have everything go its way.

This, however, is not to suggest that men’s basketball did not have a productive season.

In Engles’ second year in charge, the Lions appeared much more comfortable with his uptempo style. Improving in nearly every offensive statistical category, they were once again led by sophomore guard Mike Smith, whose facilitation expertise gave the Light Blue a fighting chance in most games this season.

Adding to the fold was junior guard Quinton Adlesh, who was an expert marksman from three-point land for the Lions, shooting 44.4 percent from long range—good for 51st in the country.

Senior guards Kyle Castlin and Nate Hickman—the two lone seniors on a relatively young roster—both performed admirably in their final seasons in Morningside Heights. Castlin, who will use his fifth and final year of eligibility at Xavier in the 2018-19 season, boosted the Lions’ bench for most of the season, providing a clutch blocked shot at the end of a 77-74 home victory against Dartmouth.

Hickman, whose stats regressed after a strong junior season, continued to provide highlight-reel finishes and excellent defense in his fourth and final year at Columbia. This included a season-high 21 points in the team’s final game at Harvard, in which the Lions ultimately came up short.

The team’s home sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth and dominant home victory over Princeton gave the Light Blue faithful plenty to cheer for in Levien Gymnasium, but on the road, the team could not overcome its demons winning just one game away from home all season. This included no wins on the road in Ancient Eight play, which saw two very narrow losses against Cornell and Brown.

With the graduation of two seniors, the Lions appeared to be set for an upward climb in Engles’ third season at the helm of the program. But the two shocking departures of promising first-years Jaron Faulds and Myles Hanson—the former being the highest-ever ranked recruit to attend Columbia—will provide Engles with the difficult task of replacing four key players in the fall.

As Engles’ players become even more familiar with his system and as the team likely benefits from an easier schedule, the coach continues to be optimistic about the program’s future in its quest for a second-ever Ivy title. | @CUSpecSports

Women's Basketball

Women’s basketball suffered another losing season as it posted an overall record of 8-21 with a 2-12 record in conference play.

In head coach Megan Griffith’s, CC ’07, second year at the helm, the Lions did not show much improvement from last season.

The Light Blue challenged itself in non-conference play, facing three ranked opponents and making a trip to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge. While the Lions were ultimately unsuccessful against those foes, the matchups were in theory helpful to prepare women’s basketball for an upcoming Ivy season—one in which the team had hoped to be competitive.

Griffith’s team, however, struggled in Ancient Eight play despite the presence of First Team All Ivy League senior forward Camille Zimmerman.

In her senior season Zimmerman established herself as one of the best players in school history, as she now holds the record for the most points and rebounds in school history. The athlete’s stellar season and the boost provided by talented first-years—guard Riley Casey, guard/forward Imani Whittington, and forward/center Madison Pack—make the Lions’ woes this season all the more puzzling.

Casey proved to be the most efficient scorer among the three, trailing only Zimmerman in minutes and scoring. Despite the presence of two solid interior players in Zimmerman and Pack, Columbia struggled in the paint all season without junior forward Josie Little, who missed almost the entire season due to injury.

On the bright side, many of the Lions’ young players got opportunities to prove themselves in significant minutes at the end of the season. The Light Blue certainly is still in a rebuild, and it is unclear when the program as a whole will blossom into a winner. | @CUSpecSports

Cross Country and Track
Kali Duffy / Senior Staff Photographer
Cross Country

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams built on individual success from key senior athletes to propel their teams to top finishes within the conference this past fall.

Throughout the fall of 2016, the women’s cross country team suffered a series of injuries and misfortunes, culminating in a last-place finish at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. But by late October 2017 the Lions had turned their program around and won their first title since 2005.

The dramatic comeback was led by senior Nell Crosby. Though her first experience with Columbia Athletics was as a lacrosse player, Crosby joined the cross country team in her sophomore year and competed as a two-sport athlete for a season before eventually committing to cross country and track and field full-time.

Crosby led the Lions to an impressive 35th-place finish at the Nuttycombe Invitational in early October, one of the toughest regular season meets in the country. She then went on to take fourth place at the Ivy championships, the highest finish of any Lion.

But Crosby was clearly not the only contributor to the women’s team as she was backed by consistent performances from senior Erin Melly, sophomore Fiona Danieu, junior Erin Gregoire, and sophomore Bianca Alonzo.

After a fourth-place team finish at Regionals, the women’s team qualified to race in the NCAA National Championships, where it finished in 28th place.

The men’s side was spearheaded by senior Ryan Thomas, who captured an individual Ivy title as the team captured second. The Light Blue was unable to build on its success within the conference, however, and fell short of qualifying for Nationals after a fifth-place finish at Regionals. Other top contributors from the men’s side included sophomore Kenny Vasbinder, junior Brian Zabilski, and junior Lucky Schreiner.

The distance runners continued to excel in the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, and despite losing key athletes to graduation, they will hope to build on their success in the coming years. | @CUSpecSports


Track and field secured many top finishes throughout the outdoor season this year as the Lions competed against many of the nation’s elite athletes and chased personal and school records.

The Light Blue kicked off the outdoor season at the Penn Challenge in late March, where the women grabbed second place and the men took third. The women’s middle-distance runners started the year strong, taking four of the top six spots in the 3,000-meter run, led by sophomore Katie Wasserman’s first-place finish at 9:53. For the men, senior Ryan Thomas returned from injury and showed promise with his second-place finish in the men’s 3K, clocking an 8:22.

In order to place athletes with different experience levels and different specialities among the most favorable competition, the Lions consistently divided up their squad among various meets each weekend as the season progressed. The program sent its elite distance runners to the Stanford Invitational in early April, but was disappointed; only sophomore Abigail McLaughlin, who finished in seventh place in the 10,000-meter run, guaranteed a spot at NCAA Regional Championships. Meanwhile, the sprinters competed at the Florida Relays, where senior Akua Obeng-Akrofi also earned a spot at Regionals, clocking a 52.75 sprint in the 400-meter dash.

The weather in the northeast posed a consistent challenge for the Light Blue, as it faced cold, rain, and even snow during its events. Its two meets in Princeton, the Sam Howell Invitational and the Larry Ellis Invitational, were especially affected by weather. Though the Sam Howell Invitational in early April was shortened to only one day of competition, sophomore Maryam Hassan grabbed fourth in the long jump at 5.4 meters. Hassan improved on this success at the Metropolitan Indoor Championships, claiming victory in both the women’s long jump and triple jump with her respective leaps of 6.02 meters and 12.26 meters.

Senior Nell Crosby, a former all–American, has been chasing her personal and school women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase record of 10:02.02. At the Ocean State Invitational in mid-April, Crosby took the crown but fell short of her personal best, logging a 10:14.10 finish. One week later, she placed second at the Virginia Challenge with her time of 10:03.28, missing her record again but still placing herself among the top 10 nationwide in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.

At the Virginia Challenge, the men’s side experienced success in the 5,000-meter run. Junior Brian Zabilski registered an eighth-place finish with his time of 13:59.18, the third best 5,000-meter run in school history. Teammates sophomore Kenny Vasbinder and senior Ryan Thomas followed close behind with their respective finishes of 14:01.37 and 14:04.21. The trio’s times identify them as the top three 5,000-meter runners in the entire Ivy League. As the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships approach, the three athletes will look to continue their success and lead the field.

Although the more experienced upperclassmen have carried the program throughout the outdoor season, many of the first-year athletes have impressed in a variety of competitions. First-year Logan McDaniel set the tone early for the less experienced athletes, registering a 7.19-meter long jump and taking first place at the Penn Challenge. Teammate first-year Jack Pilhkar steadily improved his hammer throw as the season progressed. He recorded the sixth-best hammer throw in school history at the Colonial Relays with his 54.74-meter heave but improved on this score just two weeks later, throwing the hammer 52.07 meters at the Larry Ellis Invitational.

With the regular season coming to a close, the Light Blue’s sights are now set on the postseason, with the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships set to kick off this Saturday at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia. For the Lions who have registered qualifying times, the NCAA Regional Championships will take place in late May and the NCAA National Championships will take place in early June. | @CUSpecSports

KJ Mulam / Staff Photographer

Following a third-place finish at last year's NCAA Championships, fencing changed its approach at the start of the 2017-2018 season.

In contrast to previous seasons, the squad competed in two regional format events before the Columbia Invitational, lending the team's new members a chance to familiarize themselves with the format used at the NCAA Regionals. These events—which took place at Temple and Penn State—allowed the Lions to get into form early, as the team went on to win a total of 10 medals in individual competitions.

When it was time for the Lions to play their season home opener at the Columbia Invitational, the men's and women's squads went undefeated in six matches for the second straight year.

At the Ivy League Championships, the women's squad avenged last year's close loss to Princeton, eventually going undefeated against all six of their conference foes. The result ensured that the women’s squad would win their first Ivy stand-alone title since 2015. After sharing the Ivy League title with Penn and Princeton in 2015 and 2016, the men’s squad shared the title with Harvard and Penn, posting a 4-1 record in the process.

The NCAA Northeast Regionals proved to be another successful event for the Lions. This set up a three-way showdown between Columbia and the nation's two other strongest schools—Notre Dame and Ohio State—who had also qualified 12 fencers for the Championships.

In the NCAA round-robin events, Columbia had four fencers place in the top four of their weapon—junior Iman Blow, who ended up winning the NCAA Individual Title in Women’s Foil, first-years Sylvie Binder and Sidarth Kumbla, and sophomore Sam Moelis. The final results had Columbia finish runner-up to Notre Dame, with Ohio State claiming a third-place finish.

In spite of the seasons strong results, Columbia fencing’s younger members still remain eager to reclaim the NCAA Championship title for themselves next year. | @CUSpecSports