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Penn sophomore Ryan Harwood, who was seeded fourth at the Princeton Invitational, won twice before succumbing to Columbia's Oscar Chow. (Will Burhop/DP File Photo)

Fall tennis is normally considered an opportunity for squads to tune up. This season, however, has been a baptism by fire for Penn's men's tennis team. In the Quakers' second tournament without a coach, Penn senior co-captains Eric Sobotka and Rob Pringle led the Quakers into the 12th annual Princeton Invitational Tournament this past weekend. The team is still awaiting the arrival of new coach Mark Riley on Thursday. Since the August resignation of former coach Gordie Ernst, Pringle and Sobotka have stepped in as the de facto heads of a rapidly improving squad that has eight returning players from last season. The Red and Blue sent their top four players to the two-day tournament at Old Nassau this weekend. Junior Fanda Stejskal and sophomore Ryan Harwood, both named All-Ivy last season, joined Sobotka and Pringle for singles and doubles play Saturday. The weekend's action mostly featured matches that pitted Penn's best against the top players from Ivy League rivals Columbia and host Princeton. The results were mixed, but Penn showed its resilience against last season's top two Ivy finishers. Stejskal entered as the tournament's second seed in singles play, and he did not disappoint. He faced three Princeton players, registering convincing victories over Brian Nachtigall and Will Parlett in straight sets, before being upset by Trevor Smith. Sobotka, who was the only Penn player to face a singles opponent not from Columbia or Princeton, defeated Temple's Krishane Pillay in three long sets before registering a straight-set upset over Columbia's No. 1 player, first team All-Ivy Akram Zaman. He would later lose to Princeton's Judson Williams, 6-1, 6-0. "The most interesting occurrence in singles was Eric beating Columbia's No. 1 guy," Pringle said. "That was a huge win against Akram Zaman. Very big." Harwood was seeded fourth in singles play for the tournament. "Things are different this year for me," Harwood said. "Last year, I was a freshman coming in. Now people are gunning for me." On Saturday, he came from behind to best Pavel Jefferson of Columbia. He followed that up with a straight-set win over Princeton's Tim Kofol. He lost his next match to Columbia's Oscar Chow. "My first match was tough. I had to come from behind and pulled a muscle," Harwood said. "The second match was much easier. Sunday morning, Chow played a great match. He went on to beat Princeton's top two guys to win the singles title." Chow also teamed up with Danny Opicito to drop Sobotka and Stejskal in the first round of doubles play. Pringle, who lost his first round match against top-seeded Kyle Kleigerman of Princeton, and doubles teammate Harwood advanced to the consolation doubles final on Sunday, but forfeited in order to return to Penn. "We actually withdrew from our Sunday doubles match," Pringle said. "We had nobody else in the tournament, and it didn't make sense to come back for one set of consolation doubles. We got some matches in, and that's what's important."

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