Penn junior tennis sensation and Baylor University transfer Fanda Stejskal was bounced from the first round of the NCAA Tournament by a member of his former team in May in Athens, Ga. Stejskal fell in straight sets -- 6-4, 6-2 -- to Baylor's No. 1 player and No. 21 in the nation, Johann Jooste. But then-Penn coach Gordie Ernst saw virtually nothing but positives in Stejskal's performance. "It was a pretty good match once he settled his nerves," Ernst said. "I mean, he goes out to NCAAs and has to play his old teammate, who was the best player on that team. That's tough." Once he overcame his case of first-set jitters, Stejskal dashed out to a 3-1 lead in the second set and came within inches of taking a 4-1 lead that could have changed the match's outcome significantly. "He had game point to go up 4-1," Ernst said. "He was basically two points away from a three-set match." Had Stejskal forced a three-set match, it would have been no small feat against Jooste's strength and experience. Jooste ultimately advanced farther than any player in Baylor history, losing in the round of 16. He graduated as the Bears all-time leader in singles victories. "The guy was a very strong guy, a very powerful player from South Africa," Ernst said. "The best that Fanda threw at him he'd seen before and was able to adjust to. [Jooste] was the best guy on [Baylor], so he had that confidence. Then, he realized that Fanda had improved." When Jooste got the wake-up call, he came back to win that fifth game and the set, 6-4. Ernst said that among the four players from the Quakers' region, Stejskal -- the first Quaker to compete in NCAAs since 1972 -- managed to keep the coolest head. "Fanda played with the most poise out of our region," Ernst said. "They all lost in straight sets, but the guys from Princeton, Cornell and St. John's just didn't seem to put up any kind of a fight." If nothing else, Ernst wants Stejskal to come away from his first NCAA Tournament experience primed for more. "I hope that this whet his appetite a little bit," Ernst said. "He had a little bit of that thing where the guy gets to the Superbowl and assumes he'll be back next year." Ernst is confident that Stejskal won't rest on his laurels and count on being awarded a spot next season, especially since he plays in a region that is allowed only four tournament berths a year. At the same time, other regions, like the southeast, are allowed to place anywhere between 14 and 20 players in the tournament. "He realizes that he really has to work to make it [to the tournament] next year," Ernst said. "It's great to get there, but doing something is where it's at." Prior to his resignation, Ernst was decidedly upbeat about next season for the Quakers, and not just because Stejskal, a first-team All-Ivy selection, returns. The Quakers also return second-team All-Ivy and ITA Region I Rookie of the Year in sophomore Ryan Harwood, who took the No. 2 slot for most of the year. Plus, Stejskal's appearance in the tournament has given the Quakers a little shot of confidence. "The guys are very pumped," Ernst said. "They're very proud to have a guy who competed at NCAAs, and they should be. Harvard didn't send anyone [to NCAAs], neither did Columbia, and they won the league this year.Comments powered by Disqus
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