In its final battle before facing a formidable foe in Princeton, Penn men’s tennis was forced to weather a Red Storm.
Though Penn battled hard, the Quakers ultimately couldn’t batten down the hatches and fell to St. John’s, 5-2.
Already off to a slow start due to injuries, Tuesday’s matchup with the Red Storm (9-5) gave the Red and Blue (4-9) more aches and pains. With senior co-captain Nikola Kocovic missing after rolling an ankle, his replacement, sophomore Vim De Alwis, was forced out of action due to an ankle injury in the second set of his match at first singles.
The Quakers’ toughest battle this season has been with injuries and keeping the team healthy enough to compete.
“We needed a win really to go into the Ivy Leagues with a little momentum,” coach David Geatz said, “I’ve never seen worse luck in my life with the team. We’ve already lost a couple guys this year; our top two guys rolled their ankles. We’ve got so many guys out of the lineup we’re just trying to cobble together a team.”
As hard as the injury riddled Red and Blue fought, it was not enough to defeat the fully healthy St. John’s squad it matched up against. Only junior Jeremy Court and senior Zach Katz were able to pick up individual match wins.
“If we were healthy we would have done well, but we weren’t and just fell short,” sophomore Blaine Willenborg said after returning from an injury of his own. “Hopefully we’re going to give a lot of energy tomorrow in practice and carry that forward to Saturday against Princeton and do well.”
The season began for Penn with high hopes, as it fielded a fully healthy roster that made other elite programs cringe. However, after losing junior Ismael Lahlou for the season due to surgery and having other players fall in and out of the lineup at the hands of injuries, the Quakers found themselves stumbling out of the gates.
“I never expected what was going to happen this year in terms of all the people we’ve had out.” Geatz said. “At the start of the year, I was positive we had enough talent, I thought it would take two good recruiting classes to turn the program around. We thought that we would definitely make the NCAA tournament and be a top forty team.”
With their season on the line, hope may be on the horizon for the Quakers as some of their injured may be returning to battle against Princeton this Saturday.
But nothing is set in stone, so the Red and Blue have no choice but to take it day by day.