Hoping to rebound after losing to a powerful No. 43 Penn State squad on Saturday, Penn men’s tennis took the court on Sunday at the Levy Tennis Pavilion looking to win against Illinois State.
In the program’s first ever match against the Redbirds (4-3), the injury-riddled Quakers (1-5) fought hard across the board, but ultimately the team was not able to win the close matchups it needed, falling 5-2.
“I can’t blame anybody. They all fought hard and put out a good effort,” head coach David Geatz said. “We didn’t win some close matches, but we played well I thought. I wasn’t disappointed; I was disappointed with the result, but I wasn’t disappointed with the effort and how hard the guys [fought].”
With freshmen Marshall Sharp and Stuart Little as well as sophomore Blaine Willenborg and junior Ishmael Lahlou out with injuries, the Red and Blue came into Sunday extremely shorthanded against a strong Illinois State squad looking for a road win.
“Penn State is a top 20 team in the country. I think they are really good. I knew that I made a really aggressive schedule this year ... but we’ve got so many guys that can’t play,” Geatz said. “We’ve been playing without half of our starters ... I never knew we’d be missing all these guys, but that’s the way it goes I guess. “
The match began with doubles play at 10 a.m., with Penn No. 1s senior co-captain Nikola Kocovic and freshman Matt Nardella losing 4-8 to Illinois State sophomores Jakub Eisner and Rolando Torrellas.
However, Penn’s No. 2 doubles pair of senior co-captain Zach Katz and junior Jeremy Court still continued to work and was able to salvage one doubles win for the Red and Blue, 8-6.
Tied 1-1, Penn’s No. 3 doubles pair of freshman Thomas Spratt and sophomore Austin Kaplan had a chance to give Penn the doubles win and battled but soon lost a tight 6-8 match to give the Redbirds the two necessary wins to earn the point in doubles play.
“We wanted to update our schedule. I thought Illinois State was a good team,” Geatz said when asked about the first-ever matchup with the Redbirds. “I thought they’d be a ranked team and I also I was friends with their coach. I wanted to play a home match and play in Philly, so we get to play a team that’s good in Philly at home.”
In singles play, Court dominated at the No. 4 spot winning, 6-0, 6-0, to tie the match at 1-1. But the Redbirds would storm back, as Kocovic fell, 6-2, 6-4, at the No. 1 spot and Nardella lost, 6-4, 6-0, at the No. 3 spot.
But Penn would battle back onto the board as sophomore Vim De Alwis took a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 win at the No. 2 spot for the Quakers.
Down 3-2, Penn needed to win at both the No. 5 and No. 6 positions to win the match. Keeping with the fighting spirit of the day, both matches took three sets to complete, but the Quakers ultimately came up short and dropped both matches to end the match with a 5-2 loss.
At the No. 6 spot, sophomore Zach Lessen lost, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, to Illinois State sophomore Rodrigo Oliviera, while Katz, who suffered from light-headedness and concussion-like symptoms throughout the match, battled through his ailments to reach a close 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 loss to Illinois State’s Torrellas.