Going into the match with Minnesota last Saturday, the Penn men's tennis team knew that it was up against one of the nation's elite teams. But the Quakers weren't intimidated. In fact, they embraced the opportunity to compete against high-caliber opponents. In the end, though, the Golden Gophers backed up their No. 37 national ranking with a 6-1 win over the Red and Blue. "We knew from the start that they were a top team and that we were definitely the underdogs," Penn sophomore Ryan Harwood said. "We wanted that. It's what makes you better. We just wanted to go out there and try our best to win." Harwood teamed with junior Fanda Stejskal to defeat the Gophers Chris Wettengel and Eric Robertson, 9-8, while Penn co-captain Eric Sobotka and junior Brian Barki picked up an 8-4 win in the No. 2 position. These combined victories gave the Quakers the best-of-three doubles win and their lone point of the match. "Playing doubles first really got us fired up," Barki said. After struggling with their doubles matches during the fall season, the Quakers see these wins as a good sign for the future. "It's an extremely optimistic thing," Harwood said. "Last year, we lost the doubles point a lot. But we've found teams that mesh well together." In singles action, Stejskal took Minnesota's Aleksey Zharinov to three sets, but dropped the hard-fought match, 1-6, 7-6, 8-10. "Fanda played hard from the first point to the last point," Penn coach Mark Riley said. "You'll win more than you lose if you play hard like that." While the Quakers put in solid efforts in their other singles matches, the Gophers -- despite missing many of their top players due to injury -- proved to be too tough and won each match in straight sets. "We started out tentatively all the way up and down the line in singles, which surprised me," Riley said. "We need to take the same aggression [that we had in doubles] into singles, and we didn't do that today." While the Quakers were unable to come up with the upset, the match against Minnesota gives them plenty to work with early in the season. "We wanted to get an idea where we were, and you find out quickly when you play a team like that," Riley said. "We've worked hard, but we need to work even harder, and that has to carry over into our matches. We need to develop more of a swagger in ourselves, more confidence." The Quakers will take these important lessons with them as they prepare to take on a pair of tough opponents, Kansas and New Mexico, at Levy Pavilion this weekend.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.