After a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Princeton in its Ivy opener last Saturday, the Penn men’s tennis team may be faced with the daunting task of having to win out in order to capture the Ivy League title.
“Typically there are a few teams that finish 6-1, and [the Ivy League title] comes down to who won the head-to-head match,” coach Nik DeVore said. “There is no reason to believe it will be any different this year.”
Friday, the No. 61 Quakers (10-2, 0-1 Ivy) take on Yale at 2 p.m. in New Haven, Conn., before traveling to Providence, R.I., to play Brown on Saturday.
After falling just short of the title last season, finishing in a three-way tie for second place, there’s no reason to think the Bulldogs can’t finish in first this year. Yale (8-7, 0-0) returned four of its six singles starters from last season.
They are led by star sophomores Marc Powers, Daniel Hoffman and John Huang, who start at singles positions one, two and three, respectively.
Powers was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year last season, the first player to win both awards in the same season. Both Powers and Huang were first-team All-Ivy last season.
The top three singles’ positions are also an area of strength for the Quakers, and DeVore boasts that he has “three players of number-one caliber” in Hicham Laalej, Eugen Brazdil and Ivan Turudic.
While Brown (13-2, 0-0) was the only league team that Penn beat last year, the Bears will not be an easy opponent for any Ivy team this season. They have been ranked as high as No. 62 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls this season.
Brown’s success comes from its freshman class, which was one of the top Ivy recruiting classes and includes three freshmen singles starters.
Among them is a familiar face for the Quakers: No. 3 singles player Samuel Fife, who went to high school with freshman Quaker Kyle Roth and played doubles with both Roth and sophomore Jason Magnes in junior tennis.
Although the Red and Blue face an uphill battle in their quest to win the Ivy League, they have remained confident.
“Our mentality has changed [this season],” DeVore said. “In the past, it’s been ‘we have a shot.’ This year, it’s ‘we’re gonna do it.’ We have a lot more confidence than we did in the past three years.”
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