Respecting the underdog
Aiming for 5-0, undefeated Quakers not looking past winless Fordham
February 16, 2011, 1:06 am · Updated February 16, 2011, 12:00 am·
After gutting out its last two down-to-the-wire matches, the undefeated Penn men’s tennis team may not have to do the same against a winless Fordham squad. But challenges remain for the Quakers.
Both players and coaches for Penn (4-0) are wary of overconfidence heading into this afternoon’s matchup at Levy Pavilion.
“It’s a dangerous thing to look on paper and see someone [who] seems maybe not as strong as your other opponents,” coach Nik DeVore said. “So we try and get our guys to really come out and focus and play every team like it’s an Ivy League team, which is not an easy thing to do.”
It’s no secret the Rams (0-7) are struggling — three of the team’s seven matches have resulted in 7-0 sweeps — but Penn senior Zach Gorn emphasized the need for focus against a team that is seemingly a big underdog.
“We’re just trying to stay focused regardless of the opponent,” Gorn said.
The match against Fordham also represents an opportunity for many of the Penn players.
After senior Hicham Laalej, sophomore Mark Milbrandt and junior Phil Law all impressed against George Washington last week, DeVore hopes to see different players step in to key roles against Fordham.
“What we’re looking for is for somebody else to step up to the plate,” he said. “And not having it be the same guy bailing you out.”
On the other hand, the recent close wins have given the team assurance that — even when things aren’t going their way — they can still find a way to win.
“We’ve built up some confidence with these last few wins,” Gorn said. “It gives us the belief that whenever we’re in a close match, we can count on whoever to pull through.”
With a balanced attack from the entire lineup, Gorn and the rest of the Quakers will look to ride their focus and confidence to their fifth consecutive victory to open the spring season.