“I didn’t think it was a big deal … In the worst case, I thought that I’d be missing one match.”
If only that were the case.
For Vim De Alwis, the junior captain of Penn men’s tennis, a torn meniscus just before the start of Ivy League play this season would prove to be an enormous deal, to put it simply. And with him now sidelined for the remainder of the season, the Quakers (14-6, 0-3 Ivy) have entered the most challenging stretch in 2015 without their No. 1 singles player.
In a sport as dependent on individual talent as tennis, a long-term setback for one player can still affect the team as a whole greatly. When that player happens to be one of the team’s top performers, the significance of the injury becomes greatly magnified.
The injury in question happened during a March 7 win against Radford.
“I just jumped up and came down on my left leg while serving, and I felt my left knee buckle,” De Alwis said. “I saw the trainer down in New Mexico [during the team's spring break trip]. I tried to play in New Mexico, but I couldn’t move.”
He struggled greatly over that trip, losing in straight sets in matches against both Georgia State and New Mexico.
Even though meniscus tears do not always require surgery, De Alwis has decided that the best option is to pursue an operation on his knee. The procedure is scheduled for next week.
De Alwis’ presence in the lineup has been sorely missed by the team, which was 10-1 prior to his injury but has gone 4-5 since. Penn has lost all three of its matches in Ivy League play, each of which has come since the Jakarta, Indonesia native went down.
While his injury has added a level of complexity to the Quakers’ season, De Alwis has served as an extremely useful resource to the less-experienced players on the team.
“At every match, I go on court with the guys who are playing,” he said. “I try to help coach on the court and get the players motivated for the match.”
Additionally, De Alwis still attends team workouts and takes part in every practice in order to maintain his cohesiveness with the rest of the team.
Through his continued presence at team events, De Alwis is doing all that he can to help his team succeed and stay driven. Still, there is no doubt that the Red and Blue could use him on the court.
“I wish I could have played that [Princeton] match, to open up the Ivy League season,” he said. “If we had won that first Ivy match, it would give us some good momentum throughout the rest of the season. We ended up losing pretty badly, and so it was kind of frustrating.”
The negative effect of the injury has been felt by the now unranked Quakers, who have fallen from an all-time high national ranking of 39th on March 3.
“If we had a good Ivy League season, I think we could have made the NCAA Tournament, since so many of the Ivy League teams are nationally ranked,” De Alwis said.
Following next week’s surgery, De Alwis hopes to begin training for the 2015-16 season starting in June.
“I’m really excited for the fall season," De Alwis said. "It looks like we are going to have some really good recruits.”
If nothing else, it seems as though De Alwis’ untimely injury has ignited a fiery passion within him to perform at the top of his game come next season. As a senior, he will have the opportunity to make up for his lost playing time from this year.
To any of Penn’s opponents next year, you’ve been warned: Vim De Alwis is ready to leave it all on the court.
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