Freshman tennis player impresses

Marco Pennelli talks about his love of the sport and the step up in competition from HS

By jessie Dolojan

As a freshman college tennis player at Xavier, Marco Pennelli dedicates almost every moment of his life to tennis because of his love for the sport. 

As early as grade school, Pennelli began to fall in love with the game and has spent the majority of his life training and playing at the highest possible level. He continues to carry this passion through his role on the Xavier tennis team. 

“I started playing around the age of seven or eight. I was in Boston, back where I grew up,” Pennelli said. “I kind of like the individual part of tennis. I love being a part of a team, but I like how I control how good I want to be.”

XU tennis Assistant Coach Ryan Rasco commented on how competitive Pennelli is every day he comes to tennis. 

“He’s one of the best competitors we have on the team. He hates to lose any single point, and he makes you earn every single one,” Rasco said. “He just grinds through everything. He’s a guy who loves to fight, he loves the one-on-one nature and he loves taking a player’s best effort and sending it back at him… We love it.”

To continue training for tennis in middle school, Pennelli participated in various camps that picked the top recruits in a region and trained them. 

“When I was 12 or 13, I did regional camps; they would pick the top four or five kids in my region in my age bracket, and we’d go to a camp for a whole weekend where we’d have coaches and pros just teach us,” Pennelli said. “I did multiple such camps, and they really helped my development. You meet coaches that have different perspectives… Luckily, I was ranked high enough to be involved in those.” 

Marco Pennelli will look to make his mark for the Xavier men’s tennis team this season as a freshman. Pennelli is “one of the best competitors” on the team, Xavier tennis Assistant Coach Ryan Rasco said.

Pennelli moved to the South to play high school tennis in Georgia when he was 13, right after eighth grade. 

“That was a huge move for us, I’d never really been down south, didn’t know much about it… I had absolutely no friends or family there, maybe one distant cousin, but that’s about it,” Pennelli said. “It was tough, you know, new tennis academy. I had never done online schooling before, but looking back, I think the move was definitely beneficial for me and my parents,” he added. 

Pennelli’s junior year was cancelled due to COVID-19, but he was able to have a senior season and play a few matches. He said that out of everything, the pandemic affected him mentally the most. 

“Not being able to see friends or family, it made it very difficult to maintain relationships and even to develop new ones, because I just joined my new high school,” Pennelli said. “I feel like some of my relationships, from my family back at home in Boston, have changed just because we weren’t able to see each other and keep in contact… That took a big toll on me mentally and relationship-wise.”

One thing that influenced his decision to play college tennis at Xavier was the amount of friends he met; he knew members of the tennis team even before he joined. 

Pennelli  met his current teammates through various tournaments prior to joining the tennis team. He also said that being a part of college tennis would allow him to travel more, something that he loved to do. 

“I love to travel and seeing as we travel as a team everywhere around the country, it’s always great to see new places,” Pennelli said. 

He noted a massive difference in the level of competition between college and high school tennis. 

“I played for a private high school. We won the state championship for Georgia, but college is just so different,” Pennelli said. “You’re not just competing against people from the state. College tennis has so many international players from around the world that are very, very talented, so it’s just fantastic.”

During the recruitment period, he was in close contact with Rasco via text and phone calls. 

“It was during COVID, so we weren’t able to see him play… turns out we love how he plays,” Rasco said. “You know, my first impression was he was a really good dude. It looked and sounded like he would really fit into the team chemistry and the environment we work real hard to build at Xavier.”

Rasco said that this is a young and hungry team and that everyone was very talented. He looked for people on the team to be willing to push each other to be better at every practice and want to be coached — Marco fits into this mold perfectly. 

“He has shown himself to be the ultimate team guy. He’s great for team chemistry. The guys love to be around him, and he’s one of the hardest workers we have… Even though he’s a freshman, everybody on the team kind of learns from him, how he practices,” Rasco said. 

“In the end, people want to be his teammates and around him off the court, which is a sign you just got a good dude.”

Penneli said he’s enjoyed his experience so far. “I love this school,” he said.