Heading into this weekend, Penn men’s tennis knew that this was going to be one of, if not the toughest, pair of matches the team would face all season.
The Quakers (13-8, 0-2 Ivy) took on Columbia and Cornell this weekend, dropping both matches to the top-25 ranked programs.
On Friday, Penn battled Columbia (14-3, 3-0), the defending Ivy League champions and the favorites to take the title once again.
The Lions, ranked No. 22 in the nation, began by taking the doubles point with relative ease, as the Penn team of Marshall Sharp and Nicolai Westergaard fell at the top spot and the duo of Josh Pompan and Thomas Spratt was defeated at the third position.
Columbia followed up the doubles win with three relatively straightforward singles victories, all in straight sets, giving the Lions a 4-0 sweep for the match. If there was to be any silver lining for the Red and Blue from the loss, it would be that Kyle Mautner at the top of the lineup and Westergaard at the No. 5 singles spot were up in their matches, while Pompan had split sets in his match.
However, despite the few close matchups, the Quakers were simply outplayed by the tremendously deep and talented Columbia lineup.
On Sunday, Penn looked to bounce back from Friday’s loss as it took on Cornell (17-3, 2-1). The Big Red, amidst one of their best years in program history, are right behind Columbia in the national rankings, currently situated at No, 24.
Despite a much better overall team effort, the Red and Blue lost a highly competitive 4-2 finish to Cornell.
The afternoon began by the Quakers yet again dropping the doubles point, despite a win at the No. 2 slot by Kyle Mautner and Matt Nardella.
The rest of the match, which went on for over three hours on a toasty afternoon in Penn Park was filled with very competitive singles matches.
The Red and Blue got victories from their reliable starters, Mautner and Pompan, while Westergarrd was again in the middle of a tight third set match when the overall match finished.
However, the victories by Mautner and Pompan at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots were not enough, as junior Nicolas Podesta got rolled in two easy sets at No. 2, freshman Max Cancilla lost in straight sets at No. 6 and senior Matt Nardella blew a one-set lead, falling 6-4 in the fourth.
Despite the losses, the weekend was an impressive showing by the Quakers, who had chances to squeak out victories in almost every match played today against a very talented Cornell squad. Again, as has so often been the case for the Red and Blue, they fell just a little short.
As they head into next week’s contests, although the Ivy League title may already be out of reach, it will present another opportunity for the Quakers to continue building off these strong performances against nationally ranked opponents.