It takes time to get to know a team.
First-year men’s tennis coach David Geatz came in with mild expectations. He saw a team that had talent, but not a team that was on par with the one he had coached at Cornell a few years back.
Now, halfway through the season, with the Quakers sitting 8-6 overall and 0-1 in Ivy play, Geatz has a much better idea of how good his team is and how it has performed compared to his preseason expectations.
“I was hoping that we’d do better — be at a better point than we are right now,” he said, comparing the squad’s actual performance to how he envisioned they would execute.
That being said, the team on which he based his expectations is not the team he’s coaching now.
“When you look back at the amount of injuries … we’re probably about where we should be,” he said.
Geatz mentioned losing senior Eugen Brazdil to a knee injury for the season, “one of … the best player[s] in the region.”
While several injuries have backtracked the Quakers, they’ve also had surprising additions that have bolstered their roster.
“Rob [Wong] coming back — that was kind of a pleasant surprise,” Geatz said about the junior who quit the team last year under Penn’s previous coach Nik Devore, but joined again this fall when Geatz took over. “To not play for [a full year] and then come back … he’s done really well for us.”
Nonetheless, despite Wong’s talent and impressive comeback, it’s hard for one player to make up for multiple injuries, especially on a tennis team.
Overall, it’s difficult to measure how the team has lived up to Geatz’s expectations — they’re not where he wanted them to be record-wise, but his expectations would have been significantly different had he known he would be playing without several key pieces of his roster.
However, there are other ways to measure how the team has performed.
“Another surprise for me was just the level of athleticism,” Geatz said, noting it is one of his team’s strongest overall attributes. “I was at Minnesota one year when we were top 10. But just for [athleticism], I’d take some of the guys on this team.”
Geatz specifically praised Wong, sophomore Ivan Turudic and junior Mark Milbrandt.
Given the roster he now has, Geatz says his team is “not the favorite to win the Ivy League,” but won’t count them out.
“A lot of times in the Ivies, by the end of the year, some teams are playing worse and worse,” the coach said. “And I’ve always felt like we’ve been getting a little bit better.”
Geatz indicated he was using the Princeton match as a litmus test, saying he’d “know a lot better after we play Princeton,” before the weekend began.
“They were one of the preseason favorites in the Ivy League,” he said.
If that’s the case, Geatz is probably pretty pleased — Penn lost to Princeton, but took the Tigers down to the last point, falling, 4-3.