Despite failing to rewrite an old narrative, Penn tennis is currently characterized by an overall upward trajectory.
This weekend, the Quakers traveled to Norfolk, Va. to take on tennis powerhouse Old Dominion. Both the men's and women's teams lost to the Monarchs, falling just short of beating the historically dominant team.
They did, however, balance out the weekend with decisive wins against William & Mary. The men's and women's teams beat the Tribe, with the men's team clinching a 4-3 victory to end the weekend with a positive outcome. The women's team, who played in Williamsburg, Va. on Saturday, won by a score of 4-2.
Coming into the weekend fresh off the Eastern College Athletic Conference Tournament, where the men's team took down Dartmouth, Harvard, and Cornell en route to victory, the Red and Blue (10-2) were ranked at No. 23 in the nation, the highest in program history. The Quakers successfully defeated Dartmouth, the defending Ivy League champion, with the help of key singles wins across the board.
“We were definitely trying to ride the momentum from winning ECACs. We trained really hard during the week and put ourselves in the best position we could to win,” senior captain Kyle Mautner said. “We’ve had tight matches with [Old Dominion] in the past, losing 4-3 the last few years, so we knew they were going to come out to play and be tough, but we just came up short”.
The Monarchs (6-3) are undefeated at home, supported by a consistent fan base. Although the Red and Blue men were able to secure some strong singles wins, the Quakers lost all three of their doubles matches. Mautner won the top singles match alongside senior Dmitry Shatalin and sophomore Noah Makarome, who won on the fourth and fifth courts, respectively.
Mautner is having an impressive senior year on the singles court, continuing a strong upward trajectory over his career at Penn. He has provided consistent wins at the top of the lineup in recent matches throughout the ECACs, at William & Mary (0-9), and at Old Dominion. He credits his recent strong performances to development both on and off the court.
“Being able to work on fitness and work on stuff outside of the court has reflected itself. I’ve gotten faster, and a bunch of things have worked out for me that have helped me win this year and win in general,” Mautner said.
An overall narrative of upward trajectory, similar to that of their senior captain, characterized the men’s ability to bounce back on Sunday against William & Mary. Shatalin secured the Penn victory, winning his singles match in three sets after narrowly losing a tiebreaker in the first set.
The women came into the weekend with a strong performance at ECACs of their own, finishing in third place overall.
They started off the weekend at William & Mary (3-7), taking down the Tribe by two matches on Saturday. Freshman Iuliia Bryzgalova won the top match in straight sets and defended the second doubles court successfully alongside her senior partner and DP staff member OJ Singh.
Bryzgalova defended the top singles court again on Sunday against Old Dominion (9-2), extending her winning streak from the fall and winter seasons to 21. Her success extends to doubles as well, as she and Singh are undefeated across seven matches. Despite strong performances across the board, the Quakers (6-2) ultimately fell to Old Dominion, 4-2.
As both teams approach the halfway points of their seasons, they will look to start ramping up towards Ivy League competition in April.
The men’s team is 9-0 at home this season, with its only major losses occurring on the road. The Red and Blue fell to Baylor earlier in the season before falling to Old Dominion this past weekend. Their 9-2 start to the season, however, is promising. The Quakers are in a prime position to capitalize on their strong start to the season relative to the rest of Ivy League.
“We’ve definitely proven that we can play at the top of the Ivy League," Mautner said. "The top goal of ours is to win the Ivy League title, to be able to run the table, and to be able to play NCAAs, because that is not something [we] have been able to do as a team in the last three years.”
The Penn men's team will look to continue to execute in their away matches, as they don’t return home until after spring break, when they face off with Clemson. Over the break, they will head to North Carolina to face a myriad of strong teams, including Duke and NC State.
The women's team will head to Florida over spring break to face off against Tulane, South Florida, Miami, and UCF, before returning home on March 16 to play Temple.