Tennis Wraps Up the Season


Christopher Palm

Caleb Fockens (L) and Sachin Venkatesh Ready to volley in their doubles match against Kutztown.

Heading into April, Penn State Harrisburg Tennis opened up conference play after a successful start to the spring half of the season.

With Caleb Fockens and Sachin Venkatesh leading the men as the number one and number two players, respectively, the Lions were able to sweep Penn College in all nine of their matches.

The results were the same on the women’s side with Sydney Nye, Samantha Bogush and Breanna DeSantis leading the charge.

“It’s definitely great to be back here,” said Fockens.  “It feels great to come to practice and have a lot more people to work with and I think it’s definitely prepared us for matches this semester than it did last semester.”

Heading into the weekend, the Lions faced off against local non-conference rival Messiah on home court with the men winning five matches to one.

Only two of the six men’s singles matches were not played due to inclement weather.

“Considering a lot of us put a lot of work in the off season with regards to going to the gym and making sure we’re staying in shape,” said Fockens, “I think we’re definitely more prepared physically than we were for a full season.”

The women were able to hold off Messiah, winning five matches to three including a close 8-7 doubles win for Bogush and Annalisa Petrascu where late action saw the match decided in an 11-9 shootout.

The next day, the Harrisburg Lions traveled to Penn State Abington and swept the Abington Lions in all 18 matches overall.

Nick Rohn and Andrew Schreck produced a shutout in their doubles match on the men’s side while Nye, Petrascu, Isabella Pizzelanti and Sarah Shaub also recorded shutouts in their singles matches on the women’s side.

“In the fall, I think we were all kind of getting settled in with the team,” said DeSantis.  “Now we’re a lot closer so I think we are a lot more confident in each other to do well in our matches.”

Adversity soon found its way on the road as the Harrisburg Lions traveled to St. Mary’s (Md.) to face the Seahawks.

On the men’s side, Fockens and Venkatesh powered through to win their doubles match with a 7-4 decision, resulting in an 8-7 result.

In the singles round, Fockens, Venkatesh and Schreck were credited with wins in their matches in a comeback effort but St. Mary’s (Md.) held off the Harrisburg Lions winning five matches to four.

Despite an 8-1 loss on the women’s side, DeSantis was able to produce a singles match win for the Lions.

With the majority of the team consisting of young players, gaining experience from their peers is key.

“I think it’s important for (the young players) to have confidence when they play and for us to give advice from previous matches and our previous experience,” said Nye.  “That helps the freshmen and know what style to play and give them confidence too.”

Returning to home court at the Hoverter Tennis Complex, the Lions recovered and were back in the game, defeating Lancaster Bible 15 matches to three.

The men swept the Chargers in all nine matches with the power duo of Fockens and Venkatesh recording a shutout in the doubles round and Aaron Krasley coming from behind to win his singles match in three sets.

“Personally, I think me and Caleb (Fockens) are a really good pair together in doubles,” said Venkatesh.  “I think our chemistry is just stronger than other teams that we play so even if our skill level is about even with another team, I think our chemistry just bumps up that much more.”

Pizzelanti produced her best performance on the women’s side, winning her doubles match alongside Shaub and shutting out her opponent in the singles round.  DeSantis was also credited with a shutout in her singles match.

A challenging matchup against Division II Kutztown found the Lions pitted against the grain in their final home match of the season.

Fockens gave the men’s side some momentum, winning both his singles match and doubles match alongside Venkatesh while Pizzelanti and Shaub won their doubles match for the women as the Lions fell to Kutztown 15 matches to three.

To put the cap on the regular season, a win on the road gave the Harrisburg Lions a boost of confidence heading into the postseason.

Sweeping Penn State Berks in all 18 matches, Fockens and Venkatesh continued their doubles dominance with a shutout on the men’s side while the women did not allow their opponents to score in their doubles round.

Nye, DeSantis and Pizzelanti were also dominant in their singles matches, shutting out their opponents and ending the regular season on a high note.

“Moving forward, I feel like we are really confident in our progress,” said Venkatesh.  “Just building upon our depth and our young talent that we’ve got; I really think we can go places if we just keep pushing ourselves every day in practice.”

The Harrisburg Lions will make their run for the United East Championship this Friday, April 29, at the Hershey Racquet Club in Hershey.