Senior captain Hicham Laalej has been taking care of business all season for the Penn tennis team, and yesterday’s match was no different.
Laalej set the tone for the Quakers with a straight-sets victory over Navy’s top player, Owen Bullard. Laalej improved to 5-0 on the season, emerging with a 7-0 victory over Navy at Levy Pavilion.
“The best player on each team is playing against him, so even if the team is not as strong as other teams we play, they are always going to have a good number one,” coach Nik DeVore said. “He has won pretty handily in all of his matches so far, and it’s always great to get that first singles point on the board whether or not you won the doubles point.”
In a match that was expected to be closer, the Quakers were able to win at each position, including a sweep of the doubles point.
“This is the second match in a row that we’ve swept the doubles against a pretty solid team,” DeVore said. “The doubles point is key for both teams because it gets the momentum going forward, and you only have to win three singles matches rather than four to win the entire match.”
“Getting the doubles point was huge,” junior Phil Law added. “We had some combinations today that clicked, and it was nice to seize that momentum early in the match.”
In the last two seasons, the Quakers (7-0) beat the Midshipmen (7-4) by just one point, 4-3. While the 7-0 final score indicates that Penn won quite easily, a few of the singles matches were close, including Law’s.
The junior cruised through the first set, winning 6-1 at No. 3 singles, but he let down his guard a bit in the second set, losing 7-5 to Navy’s Zach Nicholson. However, Law then dominated the third, winning 6-2.
“My legs weren’t quite there in the second set,” Law said. “I haven’t played a ton lately because of interviews and a bunch of other stuff. My fitness isn’t the best right now, but I was able to put it together in the third set.”
Freshman Nikola Kocovic won in straight sets at No. 4 singles, defeating his opponent 6-2 then 6-3. The No. 2, No. 5 and No. 6 singles players, Ivan Turudic, Jason Lin and Jason Magnes, all beat their respective opponents in three sets.
The Quakers have cruised through their first seven matches, but their first true test will come over spring break when they head to California to face three ranked teams, Santa Clara, Pacific and South Florida.
“Up to this point, we haven’t had the toughest matches — [we’ve had] matches that we should always win,” Law said. “Going into California, we will be facing three ranked teams. We believe that we could be ranked too, but we haven’t had the chance to play ranked teams yet.”
Penn will also have to adjust to outdoor play, as all its matches have been indoors until now.
But before the California spring break trip, the Quakers look to improve to 8-0 when they face UMBC at home on Saturday.Comments powered by Disqus
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