Men's Tennis Opens Spring Campaign with Doubleheader on Saturday

PHILADELPHIA - The Penn's men's tennis team will kick off the spring 2011 season by hosting a doubleheader this Saturday at the Levy Tennis Pavilion. First up will be neighboring Drexel at 10 a.m. followed by Villanova at 3 p.m.

Last season, the Quakers also faced Drexel and Villanovain two different doubleheaders, beating both schools by the same score, 6-1. The Red and Blue had an impressive 8-0 undefeated record to start off the season, but faltered during conference play and finished 11-10 overall. This season, the team is hoping that it will be a different story. Senior captain Hicham Laalej will be back in the line-up after missing all of last season with an injury. During the 2008-09 season, Laalej was Penn's No. 1 player and a first-team All-Ivy selection.

The Quakers are also bolstered by returning upperclassmen from last year, including juniors Eugen Brazdil and Phil Law, as well as a couple of freshmen, Zach Katz and Ivan Turudic, who already made a splash during the fall season. As a doubles team, Katz and Turudic won two of three tournaments that they competed in in the fall - winning the SJU Fall Invitational and the Columbia Classic - and finished with a 10-1 doubles record. The duo is currently ranked as the No. 6 doubles team in the region. They each also added a singles title to their doubles success; Katz was the Flight 1 champion at the SJU Fall Invitational, and Turudic the Flight A champion at the Columbia Classic.

Law completed the fall season with an 8-4 mark overall and is currently the ninth-ranked singles player in the region. In the fall, he made it to the Georgetown Classic finals, defeating two fellow Quakers along the way, but unfortunately lost in the finals. He also had a nice run at the ITA Northeast Regionals before falling in the quarterfinals. Eight different players recorded at least four victories in singles during the fall. In doubles, in addition to Katz's and Turudic's two doubles titles, Jason Magnes and Jason Lin captured the Flight D doubles championship at the USTA National Tennis Center Invitational.

Saturday's matchup will also be Drexel's first of the spring season. The Dragons did have two dual competitions in the fall, sweeping both St. Francis (N.Y.) and Rider 7-0. Its players also fared well in individual tournaments. Junior Nikoloz Kurdadze was a finalist at the Old Dominion Invitational and won the doubles championship there with this partner, senior Manu Bajpai. The combination of Kurdadze and Bajpai was also a finalist at the SJU Fall Invitational, eventually losing to Katz and Turudic by a score of 8-6.

Villanova, on the other hand, has already started its spring schedule, with two matches last weekend. The Wildcats lost both of their matches, however, against Old Dominion and William & Mary, 0-7. In the fall, freshman Ryan Peyton was the Blue Singles draw champion at the Northeast Intercollegiate hosted by Brown. He paired up with junior Rafael Santiago for doubles at the SJU Fall Invitational. Katz and Turudic once again have already faced their opponents in the fall, defeating Peyton and Santiago 8-3 en route to their SJU Invitational doubles title.