Big expectations are nothing new for Penn’s tennis programs, and both the men’s and women’s team go into this year with high Ivy League finishes in their sights.
Penn women’s tennis finished the 2014-2015 season with three victories in their last four Ivy League matches, including impressive wins against nationally ranked Columbia and Cornell. These wins signaled definitive improvement in the team, something they will look to carry into this year.
The ending was bittersweet for Coach Sanela Kunovac, who saw two very integral members of the team graduate in then-seniors Sol Eszenazi and Alexandra Ion.
“They both wouldn’t have been as successful without the other,” Kunovac said. “They made each other better both on the court and in the classroom. We miss their presence for sure.”
Joining the program in their stead will be freshmen OJ Singh and Marta Kowalska.
“It’s very important for both of us to have good first seasons,” Kowalska admitted. “We need to play to our full capacity and get as many wins for the team as we can.”
Coach Kunovac echoed the sentiments of Kowalska, noting the strong play that both young players are exhibiting.
“Marta managed to qualify top 3 for singles, which means she will play a huge role for us,” Kunovac said. “For a freshman to place that highly means a whole lot.”
“OJ is a top 100 junior in the world,” Kunovac continued. “Most of those players end up trying to be professional players, and we have her here at Penn. Her contribution for our doubles team is clutch.”
On the men’s side, the key to a successful season seems to lie simply in the health of the squad.
Coach David Geatz has bemoaned his team’s rotten luck with injuries the past couple seasons, and figures that if the team can stay injury-free, it can be something special.
“We would’ve won Ivies last year if our top players didn’t get hurt,” Geatz said. “We had the highest ranking a Penn men’s team has ever had, but when our top guys went down, things unraveled a bit.”
The most notable of the injuries Geatz is referencing was to team captain Vim De Alwis, who led the Quakers to a 10-1 record before being sidelined with a torn meniscus.
Geatz is looking to De Alwis, back for his final year, to have a healthy senior season and lead Penn to the elusive Ivy League title.
Additional reason for Geatz’s optimism rests in the spectacular play of freshman Kyle Mautner as well as the talent in fellow freshman Dmitry Shatalin.
“Kyle is easily one of the top four players in the Ivy League right now, even as a freshman,” Geatz said. “And Dmitry is going to be a very good player for us. Both work very hard, and both will contribute this season.”
With the new freshmen performing at impressively high levels and experienced players returning to health, the sky truly is the limit for both of these talented teams.
“The goal is the same every year,” Geatz said. “We always want to win the Ivy League and make the NCAA’s. I think this year’s team is the best we’ve had in a while, and I think we can do it.”
Kunovac took it one step further.
“My goals for this program actually have increased with every year,” Kunovac said. “We are always getting better, and I recognize that.”
“We know we can do it, it’s just up to the players to play the best Penn tennis that we know they can play.”
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