Penn men’s tennis hopes to bring its fiery passion onto the court this weekend as the Quakers head to the ECAC Men's Indoor Tennis Championship for their first post-Valentine’s Day match.
In last year’s tournament, the team made it into the winner’s bracket by upsetting Dartmouth 4-3 before ultimately being knocked out by the Crimson to take fourth place. However, they won’t have the same benefit of home-court advantage that they had last year, as this year’s tournament will be hosted by Princeton at the Letz Tennis Center.
Sophomore Kyle Mautner (6-1), junior Josh Pompan (5-2) and freshman Max Cancilla (6-1) have all played consistently well thus far this spring, so the team will be looking to them for strong performances as they face off against No. 5 seed Dartmouth when round-robin play commences on Friday morning. Penn is seeded No. 4, and if they defeat the Big Green once again, they will move into the winner’s bracket to play either No. 1 Columbia or No. 8 St. John’s on Saturday. The Quakers (4-3) will have to be wary if they end up facing Columbia, as the Lions swept 11 out of the 13 matches the last time the two faced off at the Penn Invitational in September.
Cancilla said that this weekend will be “a good opportunity to show us where we’re at in comparison to the other Ivies,” as this will be the first time this spring season that Penn will take on other Ivy League teams. Coach Geatz called the ECAC tournament “a sort of preseason to the Ivy season,” and says that the Quakers are looking to “send a message and let everyone know that Penn’s good.”
Cancilla, who went undefeated through his first 6 matches this spring, plans to maintain his 2017 momentum by drawing on the motivation from his teammates, asserting that “when you’re playing for a team it’s easier to just push on” compared to playing on your own in the junior leagues.
This will be their first match back after an emotional double-header last weekend when they upset the previously undefeated Wisconsin team 4-3 but fell to Rice 6-1 the following day. The team has had three weekends of back-to-back play so far this year, which raises some concern about the players’ physical health going into this weekend of nonstop tournament play. According to Geatz, “the biggest weakness in our team is the amount of players that we don’t have ready to play who could be starters,” referring to Marshall Sharp, Nicholai Westergaard, Robbie Smithline and Dmitry Shatalin, who is now out for the season with a torn rotator cuff.
However, tennis is also a very mental game, and Valentine’s Day being this week could have thrown some of the players off of their mental peak. Fortunately, Cancilla noted that “besides maybe some of the older guys, it’s not too big of a deal.”
With tired legs but fresh hearts, the Quakers are feeling hopeful going into Friday as they make the 50-minute trek over to Princeton.
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