The birds are chirping and the sun is shining, but the Penn men’s tennis team is still practicing indoors — an unfortunate consequence of circumstances completely outside their control.
On Friday, the Quakers (9-9, 1-4 Ivy) face No. 47 Columbia in New York. They will then face No. 51 Cornell at home for Senior Day to end the season.
The match at Columbia (13-7, 3-2) is the reason for the indoor practices — the Lions have no outdoor tennis courts.
“I think Columbia might be the toughest team in the Ivy League to beat at their place because they play indoors in a bubble with a boisterous crowd,” coach David Geatz said. “It’s really tough to win there.”
But the Quakers, coming off a split against Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend, seem optimistic facing the Big Red (13-7, 2-3) and the Lions.
“We had a great weekend,” sophomore Ismael Lahlou said. “We beat Dartmouth, who [is] ranked 70. We were one point away from beating Harvard, who [is] 19 in the nation.
“So now I think we have to confirm our good shape at the moment by getting at least one win from Cornell or Columbia.”
That optimism doesn’t translate to a lack of caution, though, as the Quakers are unranked and will face two nationally ranked teams. The Lions are especially strong, having defeated No. 57 Yale, 6-1 — a team that beat Penn earlier this season, 7-0.
“Columbia is a team that, on paper, I thought was the best team in the Ivy League,” Geatz said. “They have really, really good talent. Their No. 6 player was dead even with our best player.”
But, Geatz admitted, Columbia seems to have underperformed relative to its talent — a problem that he believes the Red and Blue don’t have.
“On paper we’d be a decided underdog,” he said. “But I think that we’re playing a lot better than our ranking.”
Freshman Vim De Alwis recognizes the strength of Quakers’ upcoming opponents but enjoys the challenge.
“I just like a good battle, I guess,” he said. “We’re going to play two good teams and just fight our asses off and try to get the win.”
Against such strong teams, the doubles point will as always be a deciding factor.
Although the doubles point is only one point out of seven, its importance lies more in its effect on morale than in its count towards the score, something that is not lost on the Quakers.
“[It’s] kind of more than a point, really, the doubles is, because it’s kind of a momentum thing, too,” Geatz said. “If you win the doubles point, you immediately think you can win, and it gives you a little surge of energy.”
That said, Geatz isn’t attempting to work on new skills before the weekend, because the season ends with the Cornell match.
“We’re not playing that much, because I think it’s more important at the end of the year that the guys are fresh, have good legs and are not burned out and tired,” he said. “We’re just trying to have some fun at practice and enjoy the last week.”
De Alwis agrees that the team’s mood will be an important factor.
“Just make sure everyone’s fired up and still wanting to win,” he said. “I’m sure if everyone has the same attitude as we did last weekend, we can definitely win both our matches.”
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