The 2021-22 campaign marked the second straight year that Penn State failed to finish above .500.
The Nittany Lions finished with a 13-14 record and struggled in conference play, going just 3-6. They entered the Big Ten tournament as the seventh seed with a matchup against tenth-seeded Indiana on the horizon.
In its only matchup of the campaign, the blue and whites beat the Hoosiers 4-3 in Bloomington, Indiana, but the story turned around when the playoffs rolled around.
This time around, it was Penn State that lost 4-3 after Indiana took the decisive doubles win. The two teams shared the six singles matches.
The Nittany Lions received a major blow before the contest started, when Charl Morgan dropped out of the tournament due to illness.
Morgan finished the year with an 18-11 singles record and one of the best doubles records on the team, with an 18-15 record.
The native of Johannesburg, South Africa was available earlier in the year when the blue and white took on Indiana and, despite losing in doubles, beat Ilya Tiraspolsky in singles No. 4.
Without Morgan in the roster, coach Jeff Zinn’s side were at a disadvantage as the junior tied for the team lead in wins during the campaign.
Sam Bossem, who had a breakout year after playing little as a freshman, tied Morgan’s tally of 18 singles wins, despite playing just three singles matches in the spring season. , winning a 1-2 record.
The native of Wimborne Minster, UK had a mediocre clip in doubles matches in his second year, finishing with an 11-10 record.
The blue and white came into the campaign needing the players to step in and fill the void left by Tim Ruetzel, and that’s exactly what Loren Byers did.
During Byers’ first year of competition in Happy Valley, he compiled an overall singles record of 17–10 while playing most of his matches in fourth place in the singles.
The Greensburg, Pennsylvania native had high expectations going into the season as a 5-star rookie ranked No. 46 nationally.
Byers had a great freshman campaign, giving the blue-and-whites a young cornerstone to help build into the future.
Zinn caused a stir in the offseason, landing graduate student Malik Bhatnagar.
The Nittany Lions marked the third program Bhatnagar has adjusted to after playing his freshman year at Stetson and his last two at LSU.
After going 15-12 in all games in his junior season, the native of Ottawa, Canada struggled in his first season at Happy Valley.
Bhatnagar went 11-22 in singles, recording losses in their last 10 matches and finished 15-16 in doubles. This was partly due to more than half of his singles matches coming in first place.
Like Bhatnagar, Penn State has consistently faced stiff competition, playing nine games against top 75 opponents.
Of those nine contests, two were against teams ranked in the top 10, including No. 2 Ohio State.
The Nittany Lions struggled in those games, not recording a win while being shut out four times.
Despite their losing record, the blue-and-whites played well at home, with their tight loss to No. 20 Northwestern being proof of that.
Penn State had to enjoy a good home-cooked meal as it thrived at University Park, winning nine of 13 matchups, including six in a row to open the year.
On the other hand, the Nittany Lions struggled away from home, finishing with a 3-7 record on the road and a 1-3 mark in neutral-site competitions.
Despite a rocky 2022 season, the blue and whites have a bright future with Byers in the lead. He has shown that he defends his ground well, but the next step will be to translate this success into matches on the road.
If the Nittany Lions can play better on the road, look for them to snap that two-year streak of finishing under .500.
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