vim_de_alwis

Senior captain Vim De Alwis, back from an injury-plagued junior campaign, will be a key factor if Penn men's tennis is to rebound this season.

If the Golden State Warriors lost Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to injury or other factors tomorrow, do you think anyone would remember their magical 24-0 start?

Most people probably would not. They would say “a strong finish is worth more than a strong start” or “a season without a ring is just another failure.”

Unfortunately for Penn men’s tennis, the 2015 season — while not a failure by any means — went a lot like such.

After winning its first six matches and continuing on to an 11-1 start, the Red and Blue looked poised for a successful season. In March, the team continued to climb the ITA rankings, reaching 39th in the nation, the highest ranking in program history.

The hot start for the Quakers was even more impressive considering the quality opponents they took down en route. Notable victories included a 5-2 win on the road over then-No. 16 Penn State and wins against top 75 teams Utah and Boise State.

With everyone healthy and playing well, the Quakers felt prepared heading into Ivy play. The team was hot and expectations were high.

But things quickly began to go downhill.

First, Penn proceeded to lose its first two Ivy matches to the only two unranked schools in the conference, Princeton and Yale.

While this did not spell the end of the season for the Red and Blue — in general, ITA rankings matter more for the squad than Ivy record as the top 40 ranked teams automatically get a bid to the NCAA tournament — it certainly wasn’t the way the team wanted things to go.

Things went from bad to worse as freshman and No. 1 player, Nicholas Podesta, left the team. It remains unclear the reason for Podesta’s departure from the team.

After an incredible start, Penn stood without its two top players, as captain Vim de Alwis, who was sidelined in March with a meniscus tear, to go along with Podesta leaving the squad.

The Quakers could not recover and ended up 0-7 in Ivy play, a disappointing finish after such a fast start.

“I think if you take the two top players off any team it has a big impact but especially in tennis because now your No. 3 guy is playing No.1 and now your No. 8 guy is playing No. 6, so it impacts every single match if you lose two guys at the top,” coach David Geatz said.

While the 2015 season did not have the storybook ending the Red and Blue hoped it would, the team is no less motivated this year, and the players know they have the potential to be one of the top ranked teams in the nation if they stay healthy.

“We have big hopes for the team and we don’t need to get lucky to do really well, all we have to do is not get unlucky,” Geatz said. “All we have to do is stay injury-free. Keep our best guys in the lineup, and we will keep playing well.”

Geatz hopes to repeat their historic start again—all with the hopes of finishing strong and redeeming last year’s performance.

“We would like to finish as one of the top 40 teams in the country. We would like to be the first team in Penn history to qualify for the NCAA tournament, that’s our goal.”

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