Some saw it as a break from Ivy play, others as a tune-up opportunity, but whatever it was, the Penn men’s tennis team just wanted to win it.
The Quakers walked away victorious on Wednesday night with a valiant 5-2 win over Delaware. The Red and Blue notched four singles victories and two doubles victories.
The match was originally scheduled for Feb. 26, but it was postponed due to poor weather conditions.
After starting the season on a tear, Penn (12-3, 1-2 Ivy) stepped back a little, dropping its first two Ivy matches of the season. The Quakers now sit in sixth place in the Ivies, looking for that fire to return.
“I think it was a great performance by our guys tonight,” senior Hicham Laalej said. “Delaware always gives us a challenge, so a win like this should really be a confidence booster for all.”
Coach Nik DeVore said he was expecting a good match out of his players.
“We didn’t want to take this match lightly, and I think our guys stepped up and really showed this tonight.”
The Quakers won at second and third doubles to take an early lead on Wednesday. The doubles tandem of Nikola Kocovic and Mark Milbrandt defeated their opponents, 9-8. The senior pair of Zach Gorn and Dmitry Bury closed out their match with a 9-7 finish.
Top singles player Hicham Laalej got the Quakers off to a quick start with a straight-set victory over his opponent.
Junior Jason Lin and freshman Zach Katz both posted victories at number four and five singles, respectively, which gave the Quakers a 4-1 lead and clinched the win.
Laalej noted that the Quakers were lucky to have a nonconference match rescheduled mid-season to give them an opportunity to work out some kinks.
“Playing matches before any big match is always good practice and preparation,” he explained.
That big match for Laalej and Penn is this Saturday when the Quakers face Harvard in their Ivy home opener.
As the Red and Blue sit in sixth place in the Ivy standings with a record of 1-2, they will continue to take each match one game at a time.
“Our guys have to realize that there is more parity in the league than ever before,” DeVore said. “It shows how close each team really is. I keep telling our guys to keep their heads up and that it’s still not over yet.”
Laalej seems to be taking the message to heart.
“We ignore the rankings — they don’t matter to us. All it comes down to is being confident and playing one match at a time,” Laalej said.
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