joshpopman

With a depleted Penn men's tennis squad entering its Ivy League opener, sophomore Josh Pompan will have to help keep the Quakers afloat if they plan to stay in the mix for a league title.

As spring blooms and the plants begin to sprout, Penn tennis expects to see a lot of Ivy. From this point forward, all of its remaining scheduled matches are against conference foes.

Both Penn tennis teams have their first Ivy League doubleheader weekend of the spring season against Yale and Brown, with the men opening conference play and the No. 69 women looking to rebound from last weekend’s loss to Princeton.

Saturday’s match at Penn’s Hamlin Courts will be the men’s (5-11) first since closing out their spring break against San Diego State on March 11. Sophomore Josh Pompan says the team’s hiatus has been rejuvenating and eased the transition to playing outdoors, a process that started over spring break.

“It was really great for us. Basically, what happened was we started off the season really well, then a few of our guys got injured,” Pompan said. “We competed well, even on our spring break trip, then came back here, and I think three weeks is nice.”

The story sounds similar to that of last year, when injuries derailed a team that had vaulted into the ITA top 40 thanks to a strong start. Over the team’s spring break trip this year, injuries struck again, and the Quakers’ top two singles players have still not fully recovered.

“Kyle [Mautner’s] foot is bugging him, but he’s still going to play. Vim [De Alwis] practices one or two days a week and hopes to be able to play the match,” coach David Geatz said. “He’s just got to be able to manage the pain in his knee. I hope he’s going to play, but it’s hard to play if you don’t come out everyday and practice.”

The women (7-6, 0-1 Ivy) fell, 5-2, to Princeton on Saturday, with sophomores Ria Vaidya and Lina Qostal picking up singles wins. In doubles play, junior Kana Daniel and senior Sonya Latycheva recorded the Red and Blue’s only win as the team failed to collect the doubles point. Daniel and Latycheva have won four of five since they appeared on the ITA doubles rankings at No. 67.

Qostal knows that with six matches remaining to determine the Ivy League title, Penn is still very much in the hunt. However, the team’s margin for error has been greatly reduced.

“We can’t make a mistake, basically,” she said. “We’re not thinking about Princeton anymore.”

But in years past, Yale (6-8) and Brown (12-6) have been troubling opponents for the Penn women. The women have lost eight in a row to the Elis (the men have lost seven in a row) and six of the last seven to the Bears. Add in the factor of being on the road and the Red and Blue have their work cut out for them.

In preparation for two matches in as many days, Daniel says the team will need to think positively and with a short memory in order to grow from the Princeton loss and move forward.

“An important aspect of tennis is not letting yourself play with emotions,” Daniel said. “Everyone loses and it’s tough, but you have to focus on the improvement aspect of it.”

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