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140407 University of Pennsylvania - Men's Tennis vs Columbia Credit: Hunter Martin , Hunter Martin | Courtesy of Penn Athletics

The story of the Penn men’s tennis 2015 season is not one that can be told simply by looking at the team’s final record.

Within a four-month stretch, fans saw Penn tennis get off to arguably the greatest start in program history before finishing with an Ivy League campaign that saw no wins and a depleted roster.

The Red and Blue began their 2015 campaign by winning 12 of their first 15 matches. On Feb. 1 in State College, they upset No. 16 Penn State 5-2, one of the program’s most impressive wins in recent memory. The win moved the Quakers up to No. 39 in the national rankings, the highest in program history. Led by the star duo of freshman Nicolas Podesta and junior captain Vim De Alwis and backed by a core of young, talented players, Penn appeared to be in a position to contend for an Ivy League title and an NCAA Tournament berth.

However, during the team’s spring break trip out west, everything began to take a turn for the worse. The trip saw the Quakers drop winnable matches to New Mexico State and UT Arlington and move out of the top 60 nationally. Most alarming, though, were the absences of the team’s top players, Podesta and De Alwis. Podesta, according to coach David Geatz, came down with a virus and did not travel with the team. De Alwis began to suffer knee pain and could not play on the trip. An MRI scan back at Penn revealed everyone’s fear: a torn meniscus and an early end to De Alwis’ season.

The biggest story line of the team’s season emerged in the weeks following spring break. Podesta, a top 100 recruit and Penn’s best player, had started his season unbeaten, with a 8-0 record in the No. 1 singles position. However, after dropping his first two Ancient Eight contests, the freshman disappeared from the program. Coach Geatz believes Podesta’s departure had to do with his dreams of playing professional tennis.

“I don’t know for sure, but he thinks his pro opportunities are better if he goes out on his own,” coach Geatz said. “Nicolas wants to be a pro and will put in the time to do so.”

After De Alwis’ injury and Podesta’s mysterious disappearance, Penn’s season began to crumble. The Quakers lost all seven Ivy League matchups to end the season 14-10. Though a stark improvement from their 7-14 record from 2014, it was a major disappointment given their tremendous start to 2015.

“To give it some perspective, six of the eight Ivy league teams were in the top 75 at one point,” rising sophomore Josh Pompan said. “It’s hard especially when playing the Ivies, it’s only three weeks of the year, so I don’t think it represented our entire season, especially with every [other team] at full strength.”

Despite the team’s struggles down the stretch, the Quakers look primed for an improvement next season. Leading the way will be captain De Alwis, who looks to be fully healthy for his senior campaign.

The Quakers should also get a boost from next year’s recruiting class, which has the potential to be one of the strongest in school history. The Class of 2019 includes two five-star recruits in Kyle Mautner of Greenwich, CT and John Karlawish of Raleigh, NC. According to a panel of over 20 college tennis experts, Penn has the No. 21 best class nationwide.

Coach Geatz is thrilled with the cast of players entering the program this coming fall.

“Kyle Mautner is going to be an immediate impact player. I think he is the best player coming into the Ivy League. Karlawish is a great competitor. Our other recruit was the number one player out of Russia in the 16 and under age division and could be a real dark horse. If he’s half as good as I hope, we could be absolutely loaded next year.”

Pompan is already excited for next spring.

“We have some really good guys coming in, which will be really great,” he said. “Should be a really competitive year and we will have a very deep team and continue to build on what we had this year.”

So, for Penn men’s tennis, 2015 was not a season to forget, but rather a lesson learned.

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