Not a bad start.
On Saturday, Penn men’s tennis opened up its season with a strong 7-0 victory over Navy, logging wins all across the board.
“There’s no greater way to start off the season than with a 7-0 win, especially because this match was so close to winter break,” captain Vim De Alwis said.
The doubles teams of the No. 1 flight, featuring sophomore Nicholai Westergaard and senior Austin Kaplan, and No. 3 flight of freshman Kyle Mautner and sophomore Josh Pompan, played strongly, easily dispatching their opponents, 6-1 and 6-2 respectively.
In the second flight, however, the Quakers (1-0) found themselves in a tighter situation. The doubles team of juniors Matt Nardella and Thomas Spratt faced off against Navy’s Krishna Jana and Tyler Tossavainen, eventually going to a heated tiebreaker. The extended set concluded in a Quaker victory of 7-5.
Over in singles play, the Red and Blue fought through some close contests, as Mautner and Kaplan both saw their matches extended into third sets. Continuing their resilient play, both defeated their opponents in the tiebreaker with matching scores of 10-4.
There is resolve among both players and coaches to repeat — if not improve upon — the successes of last year’s season leading up to conference play, when the team won 12 out of their first 15 matches. This year, the Quakers want to improve their performances in Ancient Eight matches.
“I think we’re like every other team at the beginning of the season — in that we want to try to win the whole thing,” coach David Gaetz said.
Despite a great start in their first match of the season, the players find that the competition in the conference itself is an entirely new ball game.
“Ivy League is incredibly tough,” Kaplan said, contrasting the conference's competition to that of Navy (0-2).
Although the team shortened its winter break to return to Philadelphia to practice and prepare for the season, the Red and Blue still have their work cut out for them.
“We’re all just dusting off cobwebs,” Kaplan said. “But we can and will be sharper.”
Gaetz, however, wants some players to do more than become sharper. He’s hoping for a speedy and successful recovery of the team’s injured players.
“I want to get two of our players back on the lineup, our team captain, Vim (De Alwis) and Blaine Willenborg. For a good part of last year we were one of the best teams that Penn’s ever had but towards the end of the year we fell. We weren’t as competitive without our top guys.”
Despite the two injured veteran players, the team’s rookies bring very positive prospects to the table, especially after Mautner’s performance this past weekend.
“He’s one of the top four players in the Ivy League right now,” Gaetz said. “He has a lot of potential to be the best player in the Ivy League.”
Gaetz also has high hopes for freshman and Moscow native Dmitry Shatalin, who has played competitive tennis on the international circuit.
“He has to sit out the first six matches of the year, so when he becomes eligible I know he’ll have a really big impact on our team. He may be our best doubles player, and that’ll help us a lot.”
Coming off the high of this Saturday’s victory, the team remains more determined than ever for the matches that come before declaring a successful season and potential comeback in the Ancient Eight. Taking the season one match at a time, they look towards next weekend’s competitions that will be taking place in Seattle.
“The competition in Seattle from Washington and Tennessee are really good so I think it’ll be a great game,” Gaetz said.
“We’re looking to win.”
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