The Penn men's tennis team finally had a chance to show off in front of a home crowd at the Penn Classic last weekend. Cheered on by their friends and family members, the Red and Blue turned in a solid showing, but emerged wondering about what could have been after a tournament full of ups and downs. At times, Penn had flashes of inspired play, only to be followed by lapses and lost opportunities. The Quakers started well, with six of their eight players advancing to the second round. Sophomore Andy Kolker and senior Rob Pringle both picked up solid wins in their opening matches. Also moving on with first-round wins for the Quakers were Brian Barki and Eric Sobotka. Fanda Stejskal and Ryan Harwood, Penn's No. 1 and 2 singles players, both had first-round byes. However, the second round of the tournament pared Penn's contenders down to just Stejskal and Harwood. Stejskal breezed through his second round match with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Penn State's Matt Nielson. Harwood downed Barki 6-3, 6-3 in a tough match between training partners. Meanwhile, Sobotka dropped a close match 6-5, 6-5 to a strong competitor from Harvard. In the quarterfinals, Harwood faced Harvard's Oliver Choo, a player whose game he knows from competing in junior tournaments. Harwood had a 6-4, 5-4 lead in the match, but then lost the second set in a tiebreaker and proceeded to drop the third set 6-2 for a disappointing loss. "In my quarterfinal match, I was hitting the ball well, but then I had a mental lapse when I was up 5-4 in the second set," Harwood said. "I should have been able to close out the match, but I didn't. If I had, the tournament would have been very different." Stejskal, seeded second in the tournament, also fell in the quarterfinals, to Columbia's Pavle Jefferson. Jefferson then advanced to the finals before being defeated by teammate Oscar Chow, the number one seed. "If I play well, I should be in the finals," Stejskal said before the match. "But I haven't been playing well." Indeed, it seemed his quarterfinal match was another lost opportunity for the Red and Blue after a strong second round match. Penn men's tennis coach Mark Riley characterized the weekend as "a solid showing," but he recognized that the team may not have performed to its potential. "I was hoping one of our players could get through and win the tournament," Riley said. "I saw some good matches and then a drop-off. Fanda and Harwood showed flashes of why they can be the best [doubles] team in the East. We have to sustain a high level over a long period of time. "This is my second match with the team. Now I have a clear idea of what we need to work on." This winter, under Riley's guidance, the Quakers will look to stretch those flashes of brilliance into more prolonged success as they head into the all-important spring season.Comments powered by Disqus
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