There were mixed results for Penn men’s tennis in the opening weekend of its spring season, as the Red and Blue kicked off the year down in the Volunteer State with a win over Middle Tennessee State and a sweep at the hands of Vanderbilt.
The Quakers (1-1) began their season with a 5-2 victory against MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Saturday.
The Red and Blue came out playing well in doubles, with wins by the all-junior pairing of Nicholai Westergaard and Gabriel Raoport as well as the duo of junior Josh Pompan and senior Thomas Spratt helping Penn take the all-important doubles point to go up in the match early.
At the top of the singles lineup, familiar faces led the way for Penn. Sophomore Kyle Mautner, ranked No. 112 in the NCAA preseason individual rankings, took care of business with a straight set win, as did 99th-ranked Pompan in the lineup’s second position. In the third slot, senior Matt Nardella fought for an impressive three set win over an opponent ranked No. 113 in the nation, capping it off with a third set tiebreak.
The Quakers’ second win, a win that clinched the match, was a come-from-behind three-set victory by freshman Max Cancilla. In his first collegiate regular season match, the rookie won 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 .
Sunday’s matchup with Vanderbilt did not go as smoothly for the Quakers. Despite chances at victory in the doubles and several singles matches, the Commodores swept Penn 6-0.
Coach David Geatz was pleased with the team’s performance this weekend despite being overwhelmed by a talented Vanderbilt squad.
“They learned what the top level of college tennis looks like,” Geatz said. “I said to them, if you want to be top-10 in the country, that’s how good it is. If everything possible goes our way in that match and we get lucky, we could have had a shot.
“We had a match point to take the doubles point and lost it, but really those guys are just really good. In fact, they were probably the best team we’ve ever played since I began coaching at Penn. I think by the end of the year they’re going to be a top-10 team.”
Cancilla, again, performed admirably and was leading in his match but was unable to finish once Vanderbilt clinched the overall victory. Despite the loss, Geatz was optimistic about the play of the Huntington Beach, Calif., native.
“He’s fast, he’s athletic, and he makes a lot of balls. He only weighs 127 pounds so his biggest improvement will be in the weight room and if he can put on 10 pounds of muscle, his game will jump up another level,” Geatz said. “I’m happy with Max. That was a great effort from a freshman.”
Despite the mixed results this weekend, the Red and Blue showed their potential with a win over a solid MTSU team and by keeping their matches competitive against a Vanderbilt team that is shaping up to be one of the best in the country. As the Quakers fly back from their Tennessee weekend, they should be confident that this team is on track after a slightly disappointing 2016 spring season.