For the first time in years, the men’s tennis team has nothing to play for on the second-to-last weekend of the season—except for pride.
With a record of 7-13 (1-3 Ivy) this spring, the pre-season goal of another Ivy title won’t be accomplished this season. Instead, the team will have the opportunity to dash the hopes of another contender. This weekend will see the team play its first outdoor Ivy match of the season against Princeton on Friday, as well as hosting arguably the biggest underachiever of the Ivies, Penn, on Sunday.
“I thought coming in Princeton would be a tough match. I was surprised they lost to Binghamton at ECAC’s,” head coach Bid Goswami said. “I think that’s the last match in the region they’ve lost. I’ve always thought Princeton would be a tough match for us.”
The Tigers are off to their best start in Ivy play since 1992. Princeton is one of two Ivy teams that is still undefeated and comes into the match ranked No. 59 in the nation. The Tigers also boast the best singles player in the Ivies in sophomore Matija Pecotic, who is undefeated at No. 1 singles in Ivy play and reached the finals of the ITA Regional Championships in the fall. Princeton boasts a young lineup, playing sophomores at No. 2 and 4 singles and freshmen at No. 3 and 5 singles. Freshman Augie Bloom has been a strong addition to the lineup at No. 3 singles—he has clinched one Ivy win and has also won four out of five of his singles matches.
“Everyone wants to play us outside,” Goswami said. “Even last year the only match we lost [in Ivies] was the one outdoors. Since we came back from Texas, we didn’t play outside since it was really crappy weather. We played Monday, but yesterday it rained. It’s not an excuse—it’s a fact of life, it hurts us, but hey listen, we lost inside too this year.”
No. 61 Penn has been an enigmatic team all spring. The team went 11-1 in nonconference play but did not face many top-flight competitors. The team has gone 1-4 in Ivy play, with its only win coming against Brown, 4-3. Fifth-year senior Hicham Laleej has gone 13-2 at No. 1 singles this year after missing all of last spring with an ankle injury. Quaker freshman Ivan Turdic, who won the Columbia Classic tournament in the fall, has gone 4-6 at No. 2 singles in the spring, as well as 2-3 in Ivy play. Turdic beat Columbia No. 2 singles player senior Kevin Kung in the fall. Freshman Nikola Kocovic has gone 4-1 in Ivy play, mainly playing at No. 4 and 5 singles while junior Eugen Brazdil played No. 1 singles last year for Penn, but after leaving the team briefly earlier in the spring Brazdil has been taken out of the team’s singles lineup in its most recent matchups.
“Going in, I thought they were one of the most talented teams,” Goswami said. “Brazdil, now he’s only playing doubles. If he was playing well, he would have played No. 2 or 1. [Junior Phil] Law, [junior Jason] Lin, Kocovic, they are really talented. If Penn won the Ivies, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all, but they are 1-4—it’s a surprise. Hopefully, they will still underachieve against us.”