The resignation of head coach Nik DeVore on Friday allows the Penn tennis team to close the book on a difficult four-year run in which the Quakers finished a combined 6-22 in the Ivy League.
In addition, his exodus has brought to light some issues within the program that the next coach must resolve.
Several players have quit the team in recent years, including recent graduate Alex Vasin, three-time Connecticut state champion Robert Wong and 2010 No. 1 singles player Eugen Brazdil, who left the team earlier this year but returned for the end of the Ivy season.
DeVore admitted he had “differences” with some of his players and explained, “we’re men and we’re not going to agree on everything but … I don’t hold anything against anybody.”
Wong, who was ranked as high as No. 26 nationally in singles and No. 2 in doubles at Greenwich High School, said he is “definitely considering coming back in the fall” and would like to get a feel for the new coach before making a decision. He finished the 2009-10 season 5-3 in singles play and 8-10 in doubles.
“If we get a new coach that is a little more experienced, who knows what he’s doing, if people respect him, then we’ll definitely be a closer team, we’ll definitely fight harder and hopefully win the Ivy title,” Wong said.
Several sources pointed to the team’s weak nonconference schedule as the reason for its recent struggles within the league.
“In the past two seasons, since I came to Penn, [the nonconference slate] has been extremely weak,” Wong said. “Some of these teams … seemed like high-school teams.”
Penn — which won the Ivy League title in 2006 and 2007 under DeVore’s predecessor, Mark Riley — played just one opponent that finished the season ranked in the top 50, in a 6-1 loss to No. 47 Santa Clara on March 7. By comparison, Ivy champion and No. 40 Cornell faced three such teams, including a Jan. 28 visit to No. 1 Virginia and a season-opening bid to the University of Virginia Invite, which featured teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A Penn tennis alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the easy nonconference schedule — particularly the games against local teams like Drexel, Lehigh, Temple and Villanova — boosted the team’s overall record and masked its problems. The Quakers finished 40-18 in nonconference play under DeVore.
“Those [local] teams have good No. 1 and No. 2 players, but they’re not competition for the Ivy League,” the alumnus said.
But Clay Hamlin, a 1967 Wharton alumnus and namesake of the Lynn and Clay Hamlin Outdoor Tennis Center scheduled to open next fall, said a portion of the team’s struggles this past year could be attributed to bad luck. Penn dropped two of its Ivy matches, 4-3, including a crushing season-opening loss to Princeton.
“Maybe if some of those matches would have gone the other way, [DeVore] wouldn’t have made that choice [to resign],” Hamlin said.
Hamlin described DeVore as “a very solid person, a person of good character” but added that “there were some issues of fit and culture.”
Senior Sports Editor Calder Silcox and Sports Editor Megan Soisson contributed to the reporting of this article.
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