Having one season cut short and the next put in limbo, Penn men's and women's tennis has certainly felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From cancellations in some of the world's most profitable leagues to community centers closing down, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the world of sports into a tough spot. Tennis has not been immune from the pandemic, especially at the collegiate level.
Although the sport has made a comeback on some levels, numerous players are opting out and collegiate tennis is still in limbo. Penn has felt these effects, with many starting players electing to take gap years, so this year’s tennis teams are entering uncharted territory.
On the men’s side, the Quakers are coming off of a 6-8 season that was canceled halfway through. The Red and Blue were playing incredibly well at home, leading a 5-2 record. However, tough losses on the road against ranked opponents plagued them. As the Quakers continued to improve and looked to the Ivy League season, the abrupt ending to school and play due to the pandemic caused a shocking ending to the season.
The women also had a promising season cut short. Going into spring break undefeated at home with a 7-5 overall record, the Red and Blue looked forward to another competitive season of Ivy League play. Having been very successful the year prior, Penn was positioned again to contend for the Ivy League title. However, these hopes were cut short due to the pandemic. As this year's sports seasons go by, this women team will again look to shine in the Ivy League.
Although there is hope and some optimism for a return to competition, there still isn’t much clarity into the situation. The Ivy League was one of the first conferences to cancel sports and it remains unclear when it will allow them to return. Although a number of other conferences have brought back sports and allowed for practice or limited competition, the Ancient Eight is still maintaining its stance.
“I’m always an optimistic guy and I always think there is hope … You have to be realistic too … A lot of things that would have to go right to have it happen," men's coach David Geatz said. "A serious down-spike in COVID, a vaccine, you would have to get approval to load up a group of guys in a van or get on a plane and travel and play with other teams. A lot of things have to go right but I still have hope."
On the bright side, the very nature of tennis allows for many of the players to continue to practice and improve on their own. Although many of the players are not returning to campus or have elected to take a gap year, they are still in touch with their coaches and are practicing at their home clubs and competing outside of the college sphere.
“Everybody is still playing. Our guys love playing the game. Whether I make them practice, or whether they want to do it on their own, they are going to do it on their own,” Geatz said. "I know all those guys are playing, they are practicing, they are working out, they are doing the best they can in these circumstances. I know they are all fired up and hopeful that we can start up with at least practice in January, that’s kind of what we are hoping for. If we get to play matches that will just be an added bonus."
As other conferences restart limited athletics, the Quakers are hopeful but cautiously optimistic that they will be able to hit the court again. All eyes will be on the Ivy League office to see the next steps in returning.
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