When the Penn men’s tennis team takes the court this weekend, avoiding the distractions surrounding Fling will not be the Quakers’ biggest challenge.
On the heels of a five-game road trip, the Red and Blue (8-8, 0-3 Ivy) return to campus for their first home matches in over a month as they host No. 70 Dartmouth and No. 19 Harvard.
Penn has not played in Philadelphia since defeating Binghamton, 6-1, on March 10. The team finished 1-4 on its subsequent slate of road games, which included three straight losses to Ivy League opponents.
Nevertheless, the Quakers will attempt to continue their perfect home record this weekend against two of the most challenging opponents the Ancient Eight has to offer.
“It’ll be nice to play at home,” coach David Geatz said. “Everyone plays about 15 percent better at home, and I hope we can spark some momentum now that we’re back playing in Philadelphia.”
While Penn is 7-0 at home, it will not be easy for the team to sweep its weekend matches.
The Big Green (9-9, 1-1) enter Saturday’s match having won three out of their past four matches. Dartmouth’s victory against Columbia last Sunday helped move the team into the national rankings for the first time this season.
Although Penn is one of only two Ivy tennis programs currently unranked (the other being Brown), the team feels confident that it can compete with Dartmouth this weekend.
“I think that Dartmouth is a winnable match and is going to come down to a couple key matches here and there and a few big points,” Geatz said.
The toughest contest of the weekend will almost certainly come on Sunday when the No. 19 Crimson (14-4, 2-0) visit the Hamlin Tennis Center.
After picking up a pair of victories in its first Ivy action against Cornell and Columbia last weekend, Harvard has now won eight consecutive matches, and 11 of its past 12.
“Regardless of how good Harvard is, our goal is to win both matches,” freshman Austin Kaplan said. “I think plenty of people would say that Dartmouth and Harvard are favored on paper, but we haven’t lost at home this season.”
If the team is going to turn around its Ivy League season, the Quakers will need to put the memory of last weekend’s matches behind them.
After managing to win only two singles matches in a 5-2 defeat at Brown on Saturday, Penn was then shut out, 7-0, by then-No. 54 Yale on Sunday.
“After Yale, there were very few words spoken on the van ride home,” Kaplan said. “The team was really discouraged because at the beginning of the [Ivy] season we said we didn’t want to lose any matches 7-0.”
Still, the Red and Blue are keeping their heads up moving forward.
“Our guys have had great chemistry all year long, regardless of whether we win or lose,” Geatz said. “They’ve practiced hard, and even though we’ve taken a couple tough losses, I haven’t seen any loss of effort in practice.”
So while virtually everyone else on Penn’s campus enjoys the festivities and celebration surrounding Fling this weekend, the Quakers will be hard at work, trying to capture their first Ivy ‘W’.
“If we can’t deal with the distractions surrounding Fling, then we don’t deserve to win, plain and simple,” Kaplan said. “That’s not the toughest challenge we have as a team.”
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