This weekend the Penn-Penn State rivalry will play out yet again on the courts of Hecht Tennis Center as the schools’ men’s tennis teams will engage in a battle of squads ranked in the top 60 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
The Quakers (4-6, 1-2 Ivy) look to continue rolling after an easy win over New Mexico last weekend.
Securing that win, along with beating No. 38 Dartmouth and losing closely contested matches to No. 52 Princeton and No. 32 Harvard, has propelled the Red and Blue into 59th in the rankings, their first national rank this season.
The undefeated Nittany Lions (9-0) will visit Philadelphia ranked 21st and ready for revenge. Early last season the Quakers shocked Penn State in State College.
Coach David Geatz recognizes the importance of defeating the Nittany Lions for the second straight year. And although the national ranking has inspired the Red and Blue, they know there is a lot more left on their plates if they are going to make it to the postseason later in the spring.
“I think this is really significant,” Geatz said. “This is the type of match where if you win, you could jump into the top 40s or even 30s and we need to be in the high 30s to have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament.”
Geatz believes that the Penn State match is just one step along a long, difficult path to the NCAA tournament. With numerous matchups against ranked opponents, the Quakers have as difficult a slate as any Ivy League team this season.
“God, we have a hard schedule,” Geatz laughed. “Our best player last season left to play pro tennis, and we had several top recruits come in, so maybe I overscheduled a little bit. We only play two teams all season that are not ranked or have not previously been ranked in the polls already this season. Everyone we play is really good. The plus is if you beat a few of those top teams, you end up in the NCAA Tournament. The downside is, your win-loss record may end up not-so-good at the end of the year.”
This weekend, the Quakers will continue to rely on their young talent, including freshman and top singles player Kyle Mautner, and sophomore Nicholai Westergaard, who was just ranked No. 25 in national doubles polls.
“Mautner has performed great for us all season, even though he only has 10 college matches under his belt,” Geatz said. “And Nicholai is an extremely talented kid and when he puts it all together, he is a really special player. Our young guys have been great.”
This test will be important for Penn on Sunday, but with all the confidence the Quakers have at the moment, they have a good shot at handing Penn State its first loss of the season.
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