Penn men’s tennis is approaching the heart of its schedule, which means that now is a perfect opportunity to introduce the freshmen who will be helping the team compete throughout the spring.
Coach David Geatz and his staff successfully recruited five new freshmen from across the country.
First, there is Daniel Harris. A student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Harris hails from Kingston, Jamaica but went to high school in New Jersey.
Stu Little calls Columbus, Ohio his home, and he earned first team All-State honors three times while helping his high school team win three state tennis titles.
Little is currently out with arthritis in his knee, but he keeps a positive attitude and encourages his teammates.
“It’s been great,” Little said. “We’ve got a really strong recruiting class, and we’re all from ... different areas of the country. It’s good coming in and meeting some new people.”
Another member of the crew is Thomas Spratt from Charleston, S.C. Spratt has contributed at the No. 3 doubles spot alongside sophomore Austin Kaplan this season. One of the tallest players on the team at 6-foot-6, Spratt says that the step up from high school to collegiate tennis is a definite challenge.
“Everyone you play is just so much better than they were in high school, so every match you have to come out playing your best tennis or else you kind of just get run over,” Spratt said.
College student and New Yorker Matt Nardella - whose twin brother plays for Lehigh - has consistently played alongside senior co-captain Nikola Kocovic at the No. 1 doubles spot this spring. Nardella usually plays the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the singles lineup as well.
“It’s been nice being able to step into that role right away and be trusted that I can help out the team,” Nardella said. “I’m just trying to do my best to contribute.”
Rounding out the five freshmen is Memphis’ own Marshall Sharp, a College student who is currently dealing with a hip flexor issue. Before suffering his injury, Sharp contributed at the No. 5 singles role and also frequently played in the No. 2 or 3 doubles pairs.
Although they come from different areas of the country, some of the freshmen knew each other from earlier youth tennis and recruiting events.
“I went on my official visit here to Penn with Matt Nardella,” Spratt said. “Marshall Sharp, I’ve known him since I was about twelve years old because he’s from the South as well. We played a lot of Southern tournaments together.”
All of the freshmen are excited for the team’s upcoming spring break trip to California.
“[We’re] really looking forward to the spring break trip. We’re going to go to California and play about three teams,” Spratt said. “Everyone should be fired up. We won’t have to worry about class being on break.
“I think we’ll be able to stay focused, get a couple wins there and come back with a lot more confidence for the rest of the spring.”
Overall, Geatz seems happy with his freshmen players and hopes his team can overcome its injuries in the coming weeks.
“I think it was a great recruiting class we had,” Geatz said. “Unfortunately, we have so many guys hurt. Those guys are all really good players.
“If we can stay injury-free, we have a really good team. If we don’t, it’ll be a long year.”
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