PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania men’s tennis team is set to open its season today at Levy Pavilion. The Quakers will be taking on cross-town rivals, Saint Joseph’s at 3 p.m.
The Quakers are coming off a successful fall season. In October, they traveled to New York to defend their ECAC championship title, and did so as they won for the second straight year. Also this fall, junior co-captain Jason Pinsky won the Princeton Invitational, and advanced to the semifinals of the ITA Regionals. It was a great start to their 2006-07 season and expectations are high for this year’s squad.
In their 2005-06 season, the men won the ECAC championships in the fall, and were Ivy League champions, an honor they shared with Brown. Coach Mark Riley was recognized by the ITA as the Northeastern Coach of the Year, while current sophomore Jonathan Boym was named ITA and Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Riley hopes they can continue to learn from their successful season, and built on what they’ve started.
“We learned how to win last year,” Riley said. “We thought we could win, but there’s no substitute for actually doing it. It was the first Ivy League title for Penn men’s tennis since 1971, so we’d like to continue that level of success. We didn’t win the Ivy championship outright, and we didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament. So, we’d like to be undefeated in Ivy League play, and make the NCAA tournament. Once there, we hope to produce.”
It’s a reasonable goal for this year’s team. The Quakers are returning six letter winners, including all three of their top singles players. With the addition of six new team members, five freshmen and a transfer student, Penn’s team is stronger than ever.
“This year’s team is one of the deepest the University of Pennsylvania has ever seen,” Pinsky said. “As some individuals excel, it will be nice to see others on the team follow their lead. When each member of the team proves that they are dedicated, and continue to work hard every day, that will translate into the results we ultimately want to see.”
Those results will be hard to come by for the Quakers, as Penn has one of their most challenging schedules in recent years.
“We have a very tough out-of-conference schedule,” Riley said. “We’re trying to at the very least be an at-large team for the NCAA tournament. We have a tough non-conference schedule, with several nationally-ranked teams: North Carolina State (No. 37), Duke (No. 7), Boise State (No. 25), Tulsa (No. 27), Oklahoma State (No. 16), and Michigan (No. 32). And at National Indoors in Chicago, we’ll face the No. 1 team in the nation, Georgia. Our out-of-conference schedule will certainly have us ready for the Ivy League schedule, and our quest for a championship. But the Ivy schedule is always tough. There’s a lot of parity in our league, and there are no easy wins.”
Today’s season opener is against a familiar opponent, and Big 5 rival. Last year, Penn dominated the Hawks, winning 7-0. Boym had the most outstanding result, as he swept Patrick Adams in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0, at the No. 2 singles spot. This year, Boym’s expectations for the team are even higher than last year.
“Every match we play, our goal is to win,” Boym said. “This team is ready to make a statement in all of our matches, but especially in the Ivy League.”
Today’s goal is to open the season with a win against the Hawks; but this year, the team’s eyes are set on becoming the sole owners of the Ivy League title, and competing on a national level.