For most students, spring break is a time of relaxation to be spent with one’s family or friends, but for student athletes, break can be crucial. As winter teams aim to finish their seasons on a strong note, spring teams strive for a good start to theirs. Here’s a look at the key competitions this weekend.
Men’s swimming's seniors vs. the field
Penn men’s swimming (8-2, 5-2 Ivy) competes in the 2019 Ivy League Championships from Feb. 27 to Mar. 2 at Brown. Finishing fifth at the event last year, the Quakers are looking to have a much better performance this time around. Led by five seniors, the team has looked solid all season long, but there is a championship on the line.
“I expect the guys to get up and swim the fastest they have all year,” coach Mike Schnur said. “[The seniors] really deserve to go out with a bang.”
In addition, the Quakers are also hoping to send more individuals — not just senior Mark Andrew — to the NCAA Championships.
“Mark Andrew has made it [to NCAAs] the last three years; hopefully some other guys will join him this year,” Schnur said. “It will be nice to send a team to the meet, not just Mark.”
Andrew has been arguably the best swimmer for the Quakers over the past four years. He has consistently performed at a high level, but in this meet, other swimmers and divers will also have an opportunity to shine on a big stage.
Women’s tennis vs. the outdoors
Penn women’s tennis (6-2) will also take a trip down south during spring break. The Quakers will play four games in Florida against Tulane (5-7), South Florida (5-6), Miami (Ohio) (2-6), and UCF (9-2). Before the Ivy League season starts, the team will focus on making sure it is ready in all aspects.
“One thing that is going to be interesting is transitioning from indoor tennis to the outdoors, and [it's] something we’re really looking forward to,” coach Sanela Kunovac said.
The Red and Blue have played most matches indoors, but as the weather gets warmer, more and more will take place outdoors. The Quakers see the Florida trip as a great opportunity to get used to playing outside so that they will be well positioned to thrive after the break.
Aside from the transition from indoors to outdoors, Penn does not have much to worry about. Last weekend, the team beat William & Mary and put up a great fight against a strong No. 19 Old Dominion squad. Penn feels confident in its potential to stay competitive for the rest of the season.
“When you look at it — physical preparation, competitive edge, mental toughness — we kinda check all the boxes that we should at this time of the year,” Kunovac said.
Kyle Mautner vs. Alexis Galarneau
Although it is still early in the tennis season, Penn men’s tennis (10-2) has already shown sparks of greatness. The team is ranked No. 23 on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings and has yet to drop a match at home. The Quakers will visit No. 29 North Carolina State (9-3), UNC-Charlotte (4-7), No. 47 UNC-Wilmington (6-5), and No. 50 Duke (5-5) on a road trip over spring break before returning home to play Clemson on March 10.
With three of its opponents ranked in the top 50 — in addition to the Quakers' 1-2 away record — the North Carolina road trip should be both a test of Penn’s strength on the road and a chance to prove it is one of the best college teams in the country.
Individually, the matchup between senior captain Kyle Mautner and NC State’s Alexis Galarneau is one to keep an eye on. Galarneau is ranked No. 52 in the nation, so this matchup will have profound implications on both players' efforts to make the individual NCAA Championships.
Ivy League matches start at the end of March, so every game before then is part of the building process for the League matches and the playoffs. The Quakers have set their eyes on the Ivy League Championship and on making a run in the NCAA Tournament.
“At the beginning of the season, we already had a big goal of making the semifinals in the NCAAs, so this [road trip] is just a stepping stone towards that goal,” freshman Kevin Zhu said.
Women’s lacrosse vs. Yale
Penn women’s lacrosse currently ranks No. 8 nationally, and after narrowly falling in the Ivy League Tournament last season, the Quakers are looking to bring home the championship trophy this season. The home opener against Yale on Saturday will set the tone for the rest of the Ivy League season.
Yale has won two consecutive games, scoring 18 points in each victory. The Quakers will need to be strong on the defensive end in order to secure the win. But the higher-ranked Penn team should be the favorite in this matchup.
Yale won’t be the Quakers' only opponent during spring break, however. Drexel and No. 18 Georgetown will also visit Franklin Field during spring break. Although these games are not Ivy League matches, each contest is important to the team’s at-large hopes for the NCAA Tournament.
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