By the end of the weekend, the Quakers were almost as perfect as could be.
Matched up with two of the toughest teams in the Ivy League at the Hamlin Tennis Center, the Penn men’s tennis team defeated No. 70 Dartmouth on Saturday before falling to No. 19 Harvard in a heartbreaker on Sunday.
Despite a long five-game road trip and the challenge of facing a ranked opponent, the Red and Blue (9-9, 1-4 Ivy) remained undefeated in Philadelphia with their 4-3 win against the Big Green (9-11, 1-3).
“It was great for us to pick up our first Ivy League win,” coach David Geatz said. “Dartmouth is a ranked team, and to beat them is just phenomenal.”
Saturday’s matchup was tight throughout, as the Quakers fell behind twice before finally leveling the match and eventually winning.
Dartmouth scored the opening point of the match when it captured the doubles point. Entering Saturday’s match, the Quakers were 8-0 when they won the doubles point, and 0-8 when falling in doubles action.
Freshman Vim De Alwis and sophomore Ismael Lahlou captured back-to-back straight sets victories to knot the match up at two apiece.
After sophomore Jeremy Court dropped a close match in straight sets, 7-6, 7-6, and junior Nikola Kocovic’s three-set victory at No. 1 singles, the score was even at 3-3.
At that point, all eyes were on the No. 4 match between freshman Blaine Willenborg and Dartmouth junior Cameron Ghorbani.
Though Ghorbani took the first set in a tiebreaker, Penn’s rookie from Miami Shores, Fla., won the final two sets, 7-5 and 6-4 respectively, to give the Red and Blue the victory.
“We’ve had plenty of tough losses and we’re an awful young team,” Geatz said. “But for our freshmen, especially Blaine, to play the way they have can give them a ton of confidence moving forward.”
Sunday provided an even tougher test for Penn. Matched up against a top-20 opponent, the Quakers played perhaps their best doubles matches of the season, setting the tone for a gritty afternoon.
“We’ve played the worst doubles in the Ivy League over the course of the year until now,” Geatz said. “Our doubles lineup has gotten stronger, and I’m really impressed with the progress we’ve made.”
After Penn split the opening doubles matches, the tandem of Kocovic and freshman Austin Kaplan fell in a tiebreaker to give the Crimson (16-4, 4-0) the opening point.
Whereas the Quakers overcame an early deficit on Saturday, they were unable to do so on Sunday. Harvard raced to an early lead before finally putting away the pesky Quakers.
It wasn’t easy, though. Despite trailing, 3-1, Penn was able to take the remaining three singles matches to a third and deciding set.
Nevertheless, Harvard’s Shaud Chaudhuri knocked off Court at No. 2 singles to extend the Crimson’s winning streak to 11 matches and clinch the match, 4-3.
Though the loss was Penn’s first at home this season, Geatz was still encouraged by his team’s development both this weekend and all season long.
“Our guys seem to be playing better and better as the season goes on,” Geatz said. “This is the most resilient group of guys that I have ever seen and we were a point away from beating one of the top-20 teams in the country.
“We just want to keep improving and play as well as we possibly can against some very good teams.”
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