Penn men’s tennis has its eyes on the prize, and the Quakers certainly have the pieces in place to make a run at the NCAA tournament this season.
What is possibly the most talented squad in Penn history started off the year hot, taking down then-No. 16 Penn State on the Nittany Lions’ home courts.
That victory, along with many others this season, was due in large part to two freshmen phenoms — Nicolas Podesta and Josh Pompan.
Podesta, who plays No. 1 singles and doubles for the Red and Blue; and Pompan, who usually plays No. 3 singles and doubles, have brought both skill and enthusiasm to a Quaker team that finished sixth in the Ancient Eight in 2014.
They also helped the Quakers (14-4, 0-1 Ivy) claim the No. 39 spot in the International Tennis Association (ITA) rankings back in early March — the highest rank in Penn men’s tennis history.
Coach David Geatz attributes much of the team’s success to the rookies.
“Those guys mean a lot,” Geatz said. “Nicolas has only lost one match all year, and Josh hasn’t lost much.
“So when you think about a tennis match, you only have to win four [matches], and that’s half of what you need with those two freshman.”
Despite getting off to the best start in program history, Ivy League play — which began last week when the Quakers dropped a hard-fought match to Princeton — brings challenging teams and top-notch players.
Because of this, Penn knows it can take nothing for granted.
“The whole Ivy League is tough,” Pompan said. “Seven of the eight teams are in the top 75 in the country. They are brutal competition, so we will have to play well, but that is what we have been training for all year.”
The No. 51 Quakers will take on No. 61 Brown and Yale this weekend. The Bears and Elis tied for seventh last year in the Ivy League.
Nevertheless, after last week’s defeat to No. 28 Princeton in which Pompan claimed Penn’s only victory, the team knows it will have to bring its “A” game to keep pace in the conference standings.
“I think if we all compete hard [we can win],” Pompan said. “I know the pros say one point at a time, so if we just focus on that, then we can really go out there, compete hard and hopefully take the victory.”
The match will be even more challenging considering that the Quakers lost their captain and No. 2 singles player Vim De Alwis to a knee injury for the rest of the season.
Although the loss is a tough blow for Penn, Geatz has hope that Podesta and Pompan’s success can carry the squad through the tough stretch of the season.
Pompan certainly believes this is possible, especially with the support of his teammates.
“Its pretty nerve-racking going out there,” Pompan said. “You got the guys yelling at the top of their lungs, pounding on the ground.
“I think you just have to put that in the back of your head, play tough, really compete hard and just know that you have your team there. You just keep fighting for your team.”
Although the freshmen may still get some pre-match jitters, Geatz says he isn’t surprised by the freshmen’s success and how easily they have adapted to the college game.
“I thought Nicolas had a chance to win every match in the Ivy League. He lost his first match, but he is still out there staying after practice, playing, so those guys are dedicated.”
Hopefully, this dedication from the freshmen, as well as the rest of the team, can bring the Quakers to their ultimate goal.
“We need to get into the top 40 in the country, so we can make the NCAA tournament,” Geatz said. “Our guys would be fired up about that.”Comments powered by Disqus
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