Earlier this month, Penn men’s tennis returned to a place that it hadn’t been in several years.
The best mark for the program in nearly 10 years, the Red and Blue reached No. 51 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings on Feb. 2, the highest the team has been since 2006. The ranking came after the Quakers defeated No. 16 Penn State on Feb. 1 in what the ITA termed the “biggest upset of the year” in a press release.
“The thing about this year’s team is that we’re solid at every single spot,” coach David Geatz said. “You hear that every team has a soft spot or a weakness, but I really think that we have a lot of depth.”
Penn tennis has come a long way since Geatz first took over in June 2011. Following stints at Minnesota and Cornell, he inherited a team that had won only six of their 28 matches in Ivy League play in the previous four years under coach Nik DeVore, who had resigned that April.
Additionally, the team was in flux off the court — multiple players had contentious relationships with DeVore by the end of his tenure.
Once Geatz came into the fold for the 2011-12 season, however, the team’s fortunes immediately improved. Led by a core of young players that included then-freshman — and current senior — Jeremy Court, the Quakers improved by two games against the Ancient Eight, bettering their record from 1-6 to 3-4 against Ivy opponents.
Court, who compiled a 16-4 singles record in his rookie campaign, was joined by current juniors Blaine Willenborg, Vim De Alwis and Austin Kaplan in 2012-13 to help cultivate the team’s youth movement. It’s that group of players that is currently leading Penn’s resurgence this season.
“We’ve seen a lot of improvement from many of our guys since they first came,” Geatz said. “Jeremy Court [especially] is having his best year. He’s just a really good tennis player right now.”
Last year’s team looked just about ready to make the leap into the top-75, with Geatz telling Senior Associate Director of Athletics Tony Vecchione, “There’s no way we’re not going to be a top-40 team this year.” However, the Quakers missed those expectations as they were ravaged by injuries to some of their top players.
Geatz believes last year’s injuries — and the failure to meet expectations — were a fluke. He praised the team’s weight program for helping with injury prevention, as the team has had a clean bill of health since this fall.
“I just think we haven’t been unlucky this year,” Geatz added.
If Penn’s best players can stay on the court, they should continue to be a formidable force in the Ivy League. Led by freshman Nicolas Podesta, the Red and Blue’s most recent recruiting class has been strong this season with Podesta taking the Quakers’ No. 1 singles spot as of late.
“Any time you can get a freshman to come in and be No. 1, that’s great,” Geatz said.
The Quakers had an opportunity to move into the top-25 at the ECAC tournament hosted at Harvard last weekend. However, the Red and Blue lost a heartbreaker to No. 68 Brown and dropped a spot in the rankings this week to 52. Geatz isn’t fazed by the slight step down, however, as it is the Quakers’ first loss of the season.
In order to ensure a spot in the NCAA tournament, Penn will need to achieve a rank in the low forties by the end of the season. So, how close are the Quakers to that goal?
According to Geatz, “We’re right there, knocking on the door.”Comments powered by Disqus
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