ishmaellahlou

Senior Ishmael Lahlou has served as a leader for Penn men's tennis on and off the court, helping unite a group of players from vastly different cultures with his passionate support of his teammates.

It almost seemed impossible.

Down 5-1 in the final set two weeks ago against Brown, sophomore Josh Pompan needed a miraculous comeback to win the match for himself and clinch the team victory for Penn men’s tennis.

Sick and exhausted, he slowly but surely clawed his way back to somehow win.

Mostly unnoticed during the comeback and in the post-match celebration, however, were the chants his teammates were belting out.

They weren’t in English.

Led by senior Ismael Lahlou, the chants for Pompan, the hero of the match, were in Arabic.

As Pompan collapsed in victory and the team stormed to the locker room, the call and response chants continued, with the rough translation: “Who’s got your back?” in Arabic, followed by the whole team screaming, “POMPAN!”

Coach David Geatz later recalled what a special moment it was for him as he watched his team celebrate.

“I thought it was a really cool moment,” he said. “Our Muslim guy leading the chant for his Jewish teammate. Every time I see that video I can’t help but smile.”

Penn men’s tennis is an extremely diverse team, maybe the most so of any sport at the school. With players from every corner of the continental United States, along with athletes from Jamaica, Indonesia, Morocco and Russia, the squad’s multiculturalism is certainly something noticeable, even if it was all by accident.

“I don’t think about it at all when recruiting,” Geatz said. “It just kind of happened and it’s kind of a cool thing.”

He also credited the school itself for his team’s multiculturalism.

“Penn attracts a lot of international students and it prides itself on diversity. The administration goes out of their way to make that happen,” he said. “The inclusiveness I think is unique here, especially compared to some of the state schools I was at before coaching here.”

The team may come from very different backgrounds, but it certainly doesn’t divide them. The 14-man team is as tight knit as they come, something that might be a part of their success this season.

"The team couldn’t be much closer and it’s a really interesting dynamic,” Geatz said. "Everyone is from all over the place. Different color, different religion but they’re still one big family. That’s how they look at each other.”

Whether the team’s diversity is something that is just a product of luck or the school itself, there’s no denying that the mix of language and nationality on one squad is something not often seen, even at Penn.

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