We’re nearing the best part.
Penn men’s tennis has already played 18 matches this season, but the team has just one more opponent to face before it heads into Ivy League play. After a two-week break in competition, the Quakers (12-6) will travel to Penn State for their last non-conference match of the year.
In the last time out for the Red and Blue, the team trumped a visiting William & Mary team 6-1 on the tail end of a busy Spring Break. The win was a dominant one for the Quakers, who only dropped one set in singles play, and was certainly well-received after the team’s 7-0 loss to then-No. 25 Tulane just days prior.
For the Nittany Lions (9-4, 1-1 Big Ten), competition has come more recently, giving the Big Ten side a potential momentum edge over their Ancient Eight opponents.
While this Sunday will be Penn’s last tuneup before conference play, the match comes in the middle of Penn State’s Big Ten schedule, a week after beating Michigan State and two days after hosting Michigan.
This season’s biggest obstacles for the Quakers, however, have been health concerns. The two-week break has helped the team recuperate from a hectic Spring Break that saw the players compete six times over the course of eight days.
“To get a weekend off is good both physically and mentally for us,” junior Gabe Rapoport said. “This is a chance for us to work on things, to drill and feel sharp for the upcoming Ivy League season.”
According to coach David Geatz, illnesses and nagging injuries have affected the team, on top of a season-ending injury to key sophomore Dimitry Shatalin.
“The whole year we’ve had some guys really beat up,” the sixth-year coach said. “We won’t have a 100% lineup against Penn State either, but I guess we’re kind of focusing on getting healthy.”
Nicolas Podesta is one of the most recent additions to the injured list, providing a painful blow for the team. The junior played at the No. 2 spot the last time out and was undefeated in singles play at 4-0.
To make matters worse, State College is certainly not an easy place to head to with a depleted roster. In the past four meetings, Penn has gone 1-3 against the Nittany Lions, the most recent being a 5-2 loss at home last year.
“If we go to Penn State and we can come out with a win against a good Big Ten team like that, it’s going to bode really well for the rest of the Ivy League season when we’ve got a full lineup,” Geatz said.
The rivalry between the two teams has been a good one, and, even with the injuries, the Quakers are determined to make the latest edition just as exciting. Yet, it seems safe to say that the Red and Blue are biding their time before they open conference play against Columbia on April 7.
“They’re a good team,” Rapoport said of Penn State, “but it’s really just a chance for us to get match ready and preparation for the Ivy season.”
“By the time Ivies come around we should be the best we’ve been all year,” Geatz added.
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