Tennis team splits weekend

The team defeated Georgetown but fell to city rival Penn.

The men’s tennis team came close to finally beating its rival Penn, but ultimately it fell in a match that lasted more than four hours.

“Penn is always tough, and I thought it could’ve gone either way,” coach Steve Mauro said. “I’m proud of the way we played though because they’ve always been better, but now we’re pretty even. I think if we played again there would be a different result.”

The four-hour-long heartbreaking loss came down to the wire as both teams’ best players battled in a competitive last singles match that determined the whole contest.

Junior Filip Rams, the winner of the 2010 Atlantic Ten Conference Most Outstanding Performer Award, won the first set, 7-6, and led early in the second set before Penn senior Hicham Laalej won the final three points to even up the match.

In the final set, Laalej clinched the win for the Quakers after claiming the first point on the way to a 6-4 victory.

“Our No. 1 Filip had an incredible match,” Mauro said. “People were raving about how high-quality the match was and he’s really been a standout all year. We consider him a Top 50 player in the country.”

The Owls had a chance to quickly bounce back and put the tough loss behind them with two home games during the week; they took advantage by beating Drexel and Georgetown with scores of 6-1 and 4-3, respectively.

If there were any ill effects left over from the loss, the Owls didn’t show it in their home opener against Drexel. They overpowered the Dragons at the Arthur Ashe Center from the start, sweeping all three doubles matches.

Junior Dmitry Vizhunov clinched a point by winning 6-1, 6-1 in straight sets and his doubles partner, sophomore Kacper Rams, was right behind him with wins of 6-0, 6-4 of his own.

“It was a good win for Kacper,” Mauro said. “He’s extremely talented and he has gradually been getting better since coming off his injury. We expect him to be one of the Atlantic Ten’s top performers by the end of the year.”

Freshman Taylor Hairston and junior Stanislav Stekolshikov also won their singles matches handily.

“I was surprised how easily we won that one because they’re an improving team and we were without our No. 1, Filip, because of an injury,” Mauro said.

The Owls concluded the three-game week with an early morning matchup Sunday with the visiting Georgetown Hoyas. With top performer Rams still sitting out thanks to an ankle injury, the team managed to win 4-3.

Vizhunov won his singles match, 6-2, 6-2 after the Owls picked up the doubles point to give them the early lead. Hairston and Kacper Rams put in solid performances to pick up the other two points for the Cherry and White.

“Georgetown is always a good team so it felt good to get the win and it helped prepare us for two big games next week,” Mauro said.

The Owls, predicted to finish third in the A-10, improved to 4-2 overall on the season after the three games last week and are in the midst of a four-game home swing with the final two contests coming next week against Richmond and George Washington.

“We’re happy to be 4-2, but we feel like we could easily be 6-0 because both of the losses were very close,” Mauro said. “The most important thing is we keep improving to make the NCAA Tournament.”

Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at brandon.stoneburg@temple.edu.

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