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Penn Men's Tennis celebrated their first win of the shortened season against Villanova. Zach Smith and Jason Hildebrandt won their doubles matches and then Penn went on to win all of the single matches. Credit: Chase Sutton

Penn men’s tennis entered its weekend with an opportunity to enter the win column for the first time in 2021, after dropping its opening match to Temple.

The Quakers were successful in righting the ship this past weekend as they defeated both Villanova and Drexel in a pair of home contests at the Hamlin Tennis Center. On Friday, the Red and Blue swept all six singles matches to cruise past the Wildcats. The next day, the Quakers used a strong showing in doubles to propel them to a match victory over the Dragons.

In Friday’s contest, the duo of sophomore Zach Smith and junior Jason Hildebrandt played a large part in the Quakers’ victory. Despite Penn losing the overall doubles points to Villanova, Smith and Hildebrandt won their matchups. While it was Villanova that took the early lead in the match by winning the doubles points, Penn was able to bounce back and use their success in the singles to defeat their cross-town rival.

“It was great to battle back,” Hildebrandt said. “It was a great team effort, winning all of the singles. It’s even a greater achievement after dropping [the doubles], [to] be able to compete that well as a team.”

Though most of the singles matches were decisive victories in favor of the Red and Blue, Hildebrandt’s matchup against Villanova’s Josh Robinson was tightly contested. Although the match had already been decided by that point, the contest still carried meaning for both Hildebrandt and the Quakers.

“It was a hard-fought win,” Hildebrandt said. “I think my opponent played really well. I saw the other guys winning, and luckily we were in a position where we had already won the match, but it’s important not only for me, to get some positive momentum…but also for the team … to show them that I’m there winning tough matches as well.”

Hildebrandt took the early advantage with a 6-3 victory in the first set, but then he surrendered the second set to Robinson. In the extended third set, however, it was Hildebrandt who came out on top with a 10-7 score, securing the singles sweep for Penn.

With the victory over Villanova, Penn had evened its record moving into Saturday’s match against Drexel. Unlike on Friday, where the Quakers lost the doubles point and used the singles points to come out on top, the team was able to win the doubles.

The Red and Blue’s No. 1 doubles pairing of Hildebrandt and Smith won their third consecutive opening doubles contest. The Quakers clinched the doubles point at the No. 2 when the pairing of Aditya Gupta and Harsh Parikh defeated Drexel’s pairing of Youssef Lahlou and Gustav Wogen. Though Penn couldn’t complete the sweep in the doubles action, with Sameer Gangoli and Jonah Jurick falling in the No. 3 matchup, the team started the match off with the doubles point.

With the momentum of the doubles point, the team carried its success over into the singles action. Gupta defeated Drexel’s singles No. 1, Lahlou, in two sets to kick off the singles action. Following Gupta’s victory, Smith and Aleks Huryn were able to clinch the overall match victory for the Quakers with straight-set victories in their matchups. Hildebrandt and Jurick also won their respective singles matches, with Jeff Zucker being the only one to surrender a point to his Dragons’ counterpart.

With its pair of weekend victories, Penn is well-equipped to move into the rest of its schedule looking to build on this success. Although the season is short, the team is thankful for any opportunity to compete alongside one another and put their hard work on display.

“We’re really grateful for every match we can have,” Hildebrandt said. “Now, we’re just all really grateful to have competition in the first place. I remember the first match against Temple was just an unbelievable experience, competing with the guys again.”

The Red and Blue will get their chance to continue their success and keep building their team chemistry on Wednesday, when they host local rival St. Joseph’s. 

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