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Sophomore Manfredi Graziani competes in a singles matchup against Yale's Jim Ji on Sept. 17. Credit: Cynthia Dong

Although the official collegiate season has yet to commence, Penn men’s tennis has been thrust into action in multiple International Tennis Federation and Intercollegiate Tennis Association events this fall. The Quakers have had some strong showings to start and look to continue their momentum.

“Fall is our non-traditional season," coach Rich Bonfiglio said. "It’s a little bit more individual-based competition. We hosted [the Penn Invitational] with about eight teams and we actually ended up winning that invite.” At that event, the Quakers bested Yale by a score of 5-2 — a good indicator of the team's stellar chances at a conference title when the spring season rolls around.

Penn also got to compete against other teams in different conferences at the Orange and Blue Classic in Virginia. Competition at this event featured some big names like the University of Virginia — the two-time NCAA defending champions — and Vanderbilt. “I thought that gave us some good preparation for going into the ITAs,” Bonfiglio added.

The team is noticeably younger this year with just one senior, but it seems that the fresh faces on the roster haven’t missed a step. 

“Three of our first years have had really good starts," Bonfiglio said. "Parashar Bharadwaj, Luka Butera, and Aaron Sandler have all gotten off to really good starts — both on the singles court and the doubles court.” 

Additionally, sophomore Manfredi Graziani has already qualified for the ITA Northeast Super Regionals, coming up this weekend. The lone senior, Sameer Gangoli, has been a strong performer, having not yet lost a match — a feat Bonfiglio described as a “breakout fall."

“We have a 10-man team, but I feel like everyone’s doing a good job. We’re a younger team, so there’s a lot of opportunities for guys to step into new roles — whether that means from starting in the singles/doubles lineup, to leadership roles,” Bonfiglio said. “They love tennis and they embrace working hard. They’re really buying into the culture that we’re trying to build here." 

Even Bonfiglio was surprised at how impressive the team has looked through the first couple of months. “I think we’ve probably performed better than I would have anticipated coming into this year," he said. 

“I think the practices can get a little stale, [but gameplay] helps keep everything exciting and helps keep a goal in mind,” Bonfiglio said. “No matter how hard you’re working in practice, you can’t replace those match reps and that pressure that you feel in those situations. It helps keep practices exciting and it helps keep us competition-ready looking ahead to the spring.”

The Quakers will play at the ITA Northeast Super Regionals in Princeton, N.J. this weekend from Oct. 20 to 23. Gangoli, Bharadwaj, Graziani, and sophomore Kian Vakili have all qualified to play in the singles competition. In addition, the Quakers will have three doubles teams participating in the event, which include the four Quakers mentioned above as well as junior Zachary Lim and freshman Aaron Sandler.