Freshman Matt Barry said earlier in the year that one of his main goals was to prove to the Penn State men’s team that he was hardworking. Barry displayed his dedication when he bloodied his hand by scraping it during his finals match yesterday in the Farnsworth/Princeton Invitational.
Although Assistant coach Chris Cagle said the injury did not affect Barry’s play, he still admired the attitude he carried throughout the situation.
“This tournament showed the fact that there’s no doubt that he’s going be able to compete and give 100 percent every time he goes on the court,” Cagle said. “He’s willing to do what it takes to compete and give himself and the team a chance to win.”
Barry’s dedication was not the only shining moment for him during his weekend in New Jersey. He backed up his hype coming into the season with a strong opening performance.
Barry kicked off his Penn State career by claiming two singles wins on day one of the invitational. He continued his successes by defeating Princeton’s Matt Spindler in the semifinals, which earned him a spot in the finals. On Sunday, Barry’s run came to an end when he lost to Columbia’ s Ashok Narayana in a close 7-5, 6-4 match.
“It was good competition with everybody out here,” Barry said. “It was just tough. You just have to stay steady against all of them…I didn’t really try to out-hit everybody, just tried to keep the ball deep.”
Barry beat Ivan Vereschaga of Buffalo and Ibrahim Shams of Fairleigh Dickinson, without dropping a set on Friday. His semifinal victory came over Spindler, who was half of a doubles pair that peaked at No. 24 last year. Barry’s defeat came at the hands of Narayana, who did not drop a set in his march through the Cordish bracket.
Assistant coach Chris Cagle said Barry was in contention against Narayana and had chances. He also said Barry’s performance did a lot for the freshman’s confidence as he progresses through his first year.
“It shows him that whether he’s playing a junior or a senior, it doesn’t matter,” Cagle said. “Once they step out there on the court, as long as he’s ready to compete, he’s going to be able to hang with most anybody he plays against.”
Barry’s performance was not the only notable one turned in by an underclassman this weekend. Sophomore Ramy Labna rebounded after a first-round loss to pick up his first singles win for Penn State when he knocked off Dom Devaux-Lovell of Fairleigh Dickinson.
Later, Labna bested Penn’s Jason Magnes in his second round match before falling to Binghamton’s Elliot Hureau in straight sets.
Labna said he was able to rebound because he set aside his nerves for the later matches. He said the more that he plays, the more experience he will be able to gain.
Senior C.J. Griffin played in the “A” flight — a tournament reserved for best competition — and was unable to pick up a set in either of his matches. Cagle said he saw improvements in Griffin’s game from last year despite Griffin not earning a victory.
Griffin said he agreed with Cagle and thinks that his work over the summer and the first couple weeks of the school year has allowed him to better his game.
“It was pretty tough competition this past weekend, but it was fun,” Griffin said. “There’s room for improvement, but I also thought I played well, so I was definitely happy about that.”
Cagle said junior Chris Young battled hard in his appearances. Young earned a first-round victory against Peter Skvarka of FDU, but fell in his last two matches.
Cagle also said that this weekend showed some of the areas where the team has improved and it also exposed areas where the team will continue to work. One of those areas would be the Nittany Lions’ doubles play.
Both doubles teams were ousted in their first round matches against pairs from Yale.
“We played two pretty good teams in our first round matches,” Cagle said. “I think our doubles can continue to get better. Not just the four guys that are here, but for everybody on our team, doubles has been a big focus for this fall.”