It may still be cold out, but Penn men’s tennis is coming home for the spring season.
On Saturday, the Quakers will continue their 2017 campaign with a doubleheader against two very familiar programs. Georgetown is the first opponent of the day, while Temple will make the cross-town trek in the early afternoon to cap off the spring opener.
The Hoyas and the Owls have two formidable teams by most measures, but the greatest test for coach David Geatz’s team perhaps could be fitness, as they open competitive play for the year with two back-to-back matches, and hardly any break between them.
“The NCAA only allows you to play 24 dates of the year, and I want my guys to play as much as we can,” Geatz explained, “so if you schedule a couple doubleheaders, you get more opportunities to go out and play.”
And what better way to kick things off than with two of your longtime friends? Well, Geatz made sure to invite Georgetown and Temple because of his long-standing relationships the two teams’ coaches.
“A lot of times you play your friends, and both those coaches are my friends....I’ve known [Georgetown coach] Gordie Ernst for a long time,” coach Geatz said. “When I got my first job at the University of New Mexico, I thought Gordie was one of the top twenty players in the country. I tried to recruit Gordie to come play for me, and he went to Brown instead to play hockey and tennis, and I’ve known Steve [Mauro] for quite a while too, so I like both the guys. I think they’re both good coaches. It’s always good to play coaches you respect and programs you respect.”
But once the players step out onto the court, any friendships between their coaches must be put aside. Geatz said that he and Ernst draw from the same recruiting pool, so any matchup between the two sides should be even. That sentiment reflects clearly in the scoreline from the last time they met, when Penn went down to Washington in 2014 and took a narrow 4-3 victory.
From the top to the bottom, the matches will be tight. At the top of the ladder, sophomore Kyle Mautner will surely be looking to continue his good form from 2016, but there can be no guarantees at the beginning of a new season. Meanwhile, towards the end of the team, freshman Max Cancilla will hope to have success in his first team competition at the Hecht Tennis Center in Penn Park.
Against Temple in the afternoon, the Quakers have a much tougher opponent. The Owls went 20-6 in 2016, and made it to the AAC Championship game, only losing to No. 2 Tulsa. It should be a trial by fire for the team, given the tough competition and the element of fatigue after having already played one match that day.
Though weather forecasts for Saturday don’t look great, Geatz hopes that the label of a home-opening doubleheader can draw enough support to give Penn a homecourt advantage.
With any luck, they’ll be able to take whatever home support they can get and turn it into a successful pair of matches — or at the very least, competitive.
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