PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania men’s tennis team (9-9, 1-4 Ivy) scrapped to maintain its perfect record at home this season, but in the end, the struggles the team has had in doubles proved to be the difference as the No. 19 Harvard Crimson narrowly escaped with a 4-3 win over the Quakers.
Mixing up the usual doubles pairings from recent weeks, Penn performed admirably with its new look and nearly came away with an early 1-0 lead. At No. 2, Vim De Alwis and Zach Katz dispatched the nationally-ranked doubles team of Nicky Hu and Andy Nguyen by a score of 8-5. Though Harvard came back with a win at No. 3, the Red and Blue appeared in control with a lead that reached 7-4 in the No. 1 matchup of Austin Kaplan and Nikola Kocovic against No. 55 Denis Nguyen and Casey MacMaster. Though Penn had chances to close it out, Nguyen and MacMaster showed how they’ve reached that lofty ranking, fighting back to even the score at 7-7 before the match went into a tiebreaker tied at 8-all. In the seven-point tiebreak, Harvard came away with a 7-3 win to go one point up on Penn.
The lead ballooned to 3-0 as the Crimson won matches at No. 1 and 4, but Penn gutted its way back into the match. First it was Katz who earned a couple crucial break points and earned a 7-5, 7-5 win over Hu in the No. 5 match to make it 3-1. With three matches all going into a third set, Penn still had a chance to overtake Harvard if they could sweep the remainder. Jeremy Court fell behind 5-0 immediately in the third set but took a break back and had it to 5-2 before Harvard’s Shaun Chaudhuri could close it out in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 decision.
Though the match had been decided, the Quakers continued to grind and came away with two more singles wins to show for it. De Alwis and Ismael Lahlou each rebounded from a first set loss to claim impressive wins at Nos. 3 and 6. De Alwis picked up the second win for the Quakers with a 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 win over Nicholas Mahlangu. Lahlou ended the day with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 triumph against Alex Steinroeder.
The Quakers conclude the regular season next weekend, with one match away from home and one match taking place back at the Hamlin Tennis Courts. Penn faces Columbia on Friday at 2 p.m. in New York City. On Sunday, the Red and Blue are back home to take on Cornell at 2 p.m.
1. Denis Nguyen/Casey MacMaster (H) def. Austin Kaplan/Nikola Kocovic (P); 9-8(3)
2. Vim De Alwis/Zach Katz (P) def. Nicky Hu/Andy Nguyen (H); 8-5
3. Kelvin Lam/Alex Steinroeder (H) def. Jeremy Court/Blaine Willenborg (P); 8-4
Order of Finish: 2,3,1
1. D. Nguyen (H) def. Kocovic (P); 6-3, 6-4
2. Shaun Chaudhuri (H) def. Court (P); 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
3. Ismael Lahlou (P) def. Steinroeder (H); 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
4. A. Nguyen (H) def. Willenborg (P); 6-3, 6-1
5. Katz (P) def. Hu (H); 7-5, 7-5
6. De Alwis (P) def. Nicholas Mahlangu (H); 2-6, 7-6, 6-1
Order of Finish: 4,1,5,2,6,3