There’s nothing that can replicate the hunger that comes from a brutally close loss.
Fortunately for Penn men’s tennis, the squad won’t have to wait too long to put that desire to the test.
Only days after suffering a heartbreaking 4-3 setback at the hands of undefeated Big Ten power Minnesota, the Red and Blue will get a pair of chances at redemption this weekend, hosting fellow Big Ten member Wisconsin on Saturday before welcoming Rice to Philadelphia the following afternoon.
Against the Golden Gophers last weekend, Penn (3-2) nearly pulled off the comeback of the century after trailing 3-0 early on, but the Quakers ultimately came up just short of handing Minnesota its first loss when Matt Nardella fell in a third-set tiebreak in the No. 3 singles spot.
But while the Red and Blue did miss out on giving coach David Geatz’s former team its first defeat by the slimmest of possible margins, there were still plenty of positives in the loss for the Quakers, ones that should make themselves even more prominent in this weekend’s doubleheader.
Both sophomore Kyle Mautner and junior Josh Pompan continued their dominance atop the singles ladder, respectively winning in straight sets to key the Red and Blue’s comeback effort — with Mautner’s effort being particularly impressive considering it came over ITA No. 42 Matic Spec. Both superstars are now 4-1 in singles play on the season, with each player’s lone loss coming to Vanderbilt, as Mautner has now risen to No. 61 nationally after last week’s upset.
Still, as phenomenally as the two have performed, they’ll have their hands full with the Badgers (3-0), as another pair of strong efforts from the Quakers’ No. 1 and No. 2 singles players will be necessary for Penn to pull off the upset over its second straight undefeated Big Ten foe. Though Wisconsin doesn’t feature any individuals ranked in the top-125 nationally, the Badgers’ depth has been dominant thus far, as the squad has only lost three individual matches all season.
Adding to the intrigue of the matchup is the fact that this will be the first ever matchup between the two schools, as Penn has continued to beef up its non-conference slate after facing eight nationally ranked teams outside the Ivy League in 2016.
Regardless of Saturday’s result, the Quakers must be careful to avoid a letdown against Rice (4-3) in the weekend’s finale. Though the Owls’ record isn’t as imposing as Wisconsin’s, Rice did take then-No. 16 Texas A&M to a competitive 4-3 decision back in January, and the Owls feature the No. 9 doubles team in the nation in Tommy Bennett and David Warren, meaning they can’t be slept on by any means.
Overall, it’ll be a tough weekend no matter what happens for Geatz’s squad, with two more high-profile opponents coming to town as the Penn seeks to prepare for its Ivy slate.
But if the sting of defeat remains fresh in the Quakers’ minds throughout, the Red and Blue could do more than just compete with the nation’s best this time around.
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