Some games are decided by just talent; others, by coaching as well.
Georgetown tennis coach Gordie Ernst hopes his squad’s upcoming match with Penn is defined by the former.
“If it comes down to the players, I like our chances, but if it comes down to coaching, I’m in trouble,” he said jokingly.
Ernst’s light demeanor reveals how comfortable he feels around Penn men’s tennis (3-8). And he should — after all, he coached it from 1998-2000.
“It’s always a bit nostalgic and bittersweet to go back,” he said of past trips up to Philly to play the Quakers. “It’s where I started my career.”
Since Ernst took over Georgetown (5-7) in 2006, the two programs have gotten a lot closer. Before his arrival, the two teams had not faced off against each other in recent memory. Since then, they’ve met four times.
“I knew Mark [Riley] who took over after me, and obviously I know Dave Geatz very well,” Ernst said, referring to Penn’s current coach. “When you have the relations, and you’re in close proximity ... it’s a no-brainer . We’re both looking for good matches.”
But there’s one thing that’s been missing in those matches for Ernst: a win. Two of the four times, his Hoyas have made it close, losing by a slim 4-3 margin, but they’ve never been able to close out the Quakers.
“The first match was tough,” he said, harkening back to the 07-08 season. “It came down to the last match ... my guy had [Penn’s Adam Schwartz] seven set points. 16-14 in the breaker, Adam beat him, and then went on to win the second set.”
“That hurt,” he added.
Just last season, Penn again edged out Georgetown for a narrow 4-3 win. Down three matches to one, the Red and Blue rallied to take the last three and capped their win off as then-freshman Vim De Alwis — whom Ernst tried to recruit to no avail — won a come-from-behind three-set match against Shane Korber.
There could very well be a dramatic rematch for De Alwis and Korber, as both athletes have played at the No. 2 position this year.
This time around, Ernst will have a little home court advantage — for the first time, Penn will travel down to D.C. to try to tame the Hoyas while coming off of a 1-3 spring break excursion to California.
The Hoyas hope that will be the difference. Meanwhile, Penn looks to keep a clean slate against a newfound rival.