As Ivy play heats up, Penn’s tennis teams are looking to establish themselves as serious contenders.
With matchups against Cornell and Columbia, this weekend marks an important point in the season for both the men’s and women’s squads. The Penn women (7-9, 0-1 Ivy) are trying to bounce back after a loss to Princeton and prevent their chances at an Ivy League title from taking any more hits. The men (12-9, 1-0), on the other hand, are looking to capitalize on recent momentum and build upon their impressive five-match win streak.
Regardless of recent success and failures, both teams enter their matches against Columbia as clear underdogs. The Columbia women (9-5, 1-0) beat the Quakers earlier in the season during the ECAC Championships, while the Lions' men (11-3, 0-0) are currently ranked No. 13 in the country.
“In my time that I’ve been around I don’t know if I’ve seen a better team in the Ivy League,” Penn men’s coach David Geatz said. “They’re doing it on a national level.”
This is high praise for a Lions team that has yet to play a conference match this season, but they’ll have their hands full with a red-hot Penn team on Friday. The most recent of the Red and Blue's five straight wins was an impressive 6-1 trouncing of Princeton in both teams' Ivy openers.
“It definitely feels good to get a few wins under our belt, and just going into Princeton it was definitely a big boost to have that confidence,” senior Nicholai Westergaard said.
Cornell also projects to be a tough matchup for both the male and female Quakers. On the men’s side, Penn suffered a defeat to the Big Red (7-7, 0-0) in the ECAC tournament. On the women’s side, Cornell (6-8, 0-1) is in a similar situation to the Quakers, as both teams are looking to pick up their first Ivy League victory.
“I think we’re a better team than when we played them in the past,” Geatz said about Cornell.
If not better, the male Quakers are at least a more complete team than when they faced Cornell in mid-February. In that match, Penn was missing two-time first-team All-Ivy selection Kyle Mautner in their number one singles slot.
What may make or break the success of each squad this weekend is the home-away split. The women have yet to notch a win on the road and the men have only picked up one victory away from Hamlin/Hecht Tennis Center.
But three of the male Quakers’ road losses did come against highly ranked teams Minnesota, Texas, and TCU. The female Quakers have faced even tougher competition on the road against top ten teams Georgia and Pepperdine.
“Part of the reason why we’re good at home is when we were on the road, we played some good teams,” Geatz said.
It will help to face the Lions at home this weekend for the men’s team, although their approach to each individual match does not change based on the venue.
“The Columbia match will be fun and definitely a big home-court advantage, but we don’t see it as any different than on the road,” Westergaard said.
If the women are able to pull off a victory in New York City against Columbia on Friday, then they will have a great deal of confidence to go along with a significant home court advantage against Cornell on Sunday.
One thing’s for sure; this weekend’s matches will have a great effect on each team’s season, and may end up deciding whether or not they will be in contention for Ivy League titles in just a few short weeks.
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