After hearing where the Penn men's tennis team is spending its spring break, students may be left wishing they had practiced their forehand more often before coming to college. The Quakers today boarded a plane bound for their annual trip to Hawaii for a week of tennis with a tan. "This trip is 90 percent about playing tennis," senior co-captain Eric Sobotka said. "The other 10 percent is, well, you're in Hawaii, man." The Quakers' schedule has grown busier from last year, with five teams to play instead of three. Penn will once again compete against two squads it beat last year -- the University of Hawaii and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The Quakers will also face Brigham Young University at Hawaii, a team that beat the Quakers last year. Hawaii Pacific -- which Penn scrimmaged last year but did not officially play -- and Chaminade are the new additions to the schedule. The challenge for Penn will be defeating Hawaii Pacific and BYU-Hawaii. The BYU team is composed of many outstanding foreign players, despite the Seasiders Division II status. The Quakers lost 5-4 to BYU-Hawaii last year, with Penn's losses in doubles the main reason for their downfall. But seeing as the Red and Blue have been on a roll in doubles matches lately, they may have greater success this year. "Last year, [BYU-Hawaii] had a couple of transfers from UCLA that were real tough. That school is for a lot of guys who weren't eligible for Division I but needed full rides," Sobotka said. "Hawaii, Pacific and BYU, they're kind of like N.C. State. Definitely beatable, but we're going to have to play well. Those are just coin-toss matches." Penn lost 5-2 to N.C. State on February 25, with freshman Ryan Harwood accounting for the only Penn win in the singles competitions . But despite the N.C. State loss, Sobotka is confident that if the Quakers stay focused, they can hand losses to all their opponents. "These [teams] are definitely not out of our league," Sobotka said. "We could conceivably go 5-0, and I'm hoping we will." The addition of two teams to Penn's Hawaii lineup is part of coach Gordie Ernst's strategy to expose his Quakers to tougher competition before the Eastern Intercollegiate Tennis League season begins. Ernst believes that one of the reasons the Quakers recorded a dismal 2-7 EITL season last year was that they didn't challenge themselves enough in preseason competition. "Last year we won six or seven matches early in the season," Ernst said. "But come the Ivy season, we weren't as strong as we could have been. This year, I've beefed up the schedule, and hopefully it will help in the long run." When the Quakers return to Philadelphia with their tans, they will have 10 days to prepare for their first EITL match against Navy on March 29. "We're going to have a good time -- you always do in a climate like that," Sobotka said. "The objective is to go down there and win five matches and come back confident for the Ivy season."Comments powered by Disqus
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