It was Penn vs. Penn.
Sunday afternoon, Penn men’s tennis faced off against No. 21 Penn State at the Hecht Tennis Center, dropping its last home match before heading into Ancient Eight play, 5-2.
The day began with a close loss in doubles play. After two grueling matches in the No. 1 and No. 2 flight that ended in a win and loss, respectively, the Quakers faced a bitter loss in the tiebreaker set giving Penn State a running start with the doubles point.
“Penn’s State a really good team. We were expecting a really tough match, and I think some of us just let it get into our head,” junior Matt Nardella said.
“Losing the doubles point really affected our momentum. We had our best teams on the courts and we were so close.”
The momentum of the loss affected some, but not others.
Freshman Kyle Mautner easily swept his match, 6-1, 6-4, securing the Red and Blue’s first point.
Nardella persevered through a tough three-setter against his opponent. After losing the first set, 6-7, he came back winning his second set, 6-4, and playing through a victorious third set.
Despite the loss, the squad views the match optimistically as a crucial practice opportunity and learning experience this season, especially in preparation for the Ivy League conference.
“Penn State plays against a lot of other Ivy schools, and we’ve seen their schedule,” Nardella said. “So we knew if we came out and played a competitive match we would be able to go up against anyone in the Ivy.”
Like the women’s team, the men’s team will be packing their bags this break and heading out west — but to San Diego and Denver — to play against more nationally ranked teams.
“It’s going to be a pretty competitive spring break. We’re going to start playing outdoors and because those teams have been playing outdoors all year,” Nardella said.
“We’re going because we want to compete against nationally ranked teams — the best. It will be great practice to play against top schools,” Penn coach David Geatz said.
Ivy League prospects for the Quakers this year seem very ambiguous. Last year the team fell from grace after losing some of its best players to injuries, and since the beginning of this season, some players have yet to fully recover.
“Some of our best players can only play well for about half an hour or just one day of the competition before they start getting sore or tired,” Geatz said. “Dmitry [Shatalin] hurt his wrist just when he started playing so we had to take him out again.”
“Our main goal before the Ivy is really just to get everyone healthy again.”
On the other hand, Penn has had a relatively successful season this year with or without the efforts of its injured players. Having beat out Dartmouth, who tied for second in the Ivy League conference last year, and barely losing to Princeton, who tied for fourth, in the ECAC two weeks ago, the team sees potential to be very competitive this year.
“Last year, we were last, but that is something to build on. Our victory against Dartmouth and our hard work can definitely change that,” Mautner said.
As such they are utilizing all the time they have to prepare.
“We have two weeks off before Ivy play, and we’re going to use those two weeks to really work on our fitness and all our weaknesses need to be as strong as possible,” Nardella said.
“We’re going to start tomorrow, trying to play better and tougher.”
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