Although there was no love lost between the Williams sisters in Australia on Saturday, tennis feuds were alive and well in the city of Brotherly Love last weekend. In their 2017 home opener, Penn men’s tennis defeated Georgetown and Philadelphia rivals Temple 6-1, each.
“It was a double header on Saturday so we knew it was going to be a long day,” senior captain Matt Nardella explained. “We knew both teams were pretty good, so we had to go in respecting them and expecting a fight.”
The Quakers took all but one of the singles points against the Hoyas, with wins from junior Kyle Mautner, junior Josh Pompan, Nardella, junior Gabe Rapoport and freshman Max Cancilla. Rapoport’s win was most impressive, as it came after splitting the first two sets against Yannik Mahlangu, 6-4 and 6-3, only to battle back to take the final set 10-3.
“Gabe hasn’t really had too much experience playing this year at singles, so these are some of his first two or three matches that he’s ever played,” Nardella said of his teammate. “It was good to see him go out there and get two really close victories.”
For the third match in a row, Penn captured the doubles point thanks to another strong performance from the pairing of senior Thomas Spratt and Pompan, who are undefeated this season. Also capturing doubles match wins were duo Mautner and Nardella, and junior Nicholai Westergaard and senior Marshall Sharp, who edged out the Hoyas, 7-6.
“Compared to last weekend, we really managed that well, and we cleaned up some of the mistakes we had,” Nardella said. “It was a good team effort across the board.”
The story was similar in the Quakers’ second match of the afternoon versus Temple. Once again, five of Penn’s singles players recorded wins with Mautner, Pompan and Cancilla easily beating their opponents in straight sets. Rapoport continued to prove his stamina with a comeback win over Florian Mayer in sets of 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Doubles was a strong point for the Red and Blue against the Owls as well, although this time Penn was unable to win all three sets. The pairing of Mautner and Nardella and duo Spratt and Pompan both won 6-2 while the pair of Westergaard and Sharp fell 4-6.
The pair of wins for the Quakers follows a weekend of split results on the road against Middle Tennessee State and Vanderbilt, a team Coach Gaetz dubbed one of the most talented squads in the country. Although Penn ultimately fell to the Commodores 6-1, having the chance to play against some of the nation’s best clearly sharpened the Quakers’ skills.
“Playing Vanderbilt, their level was really high,” Nardella said. “If we want to beat the best teams in the Ivy League, we need to raise our game to that level.”
Penn will have to wait until April to open its conference slate, but until then the Quakers hope to continue the upward trend with a match against Minnesota next weekend.
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