On paper, it would appear that Penn’s improvement in doubles matches is singlehanded.
“Connie,” said captain Alexa Ely, is the reason why she and freshman Connie Hsu have nearly matched the team’s total amount of doubles victories last season. Ely was just 2-17 in doubles play last season — with Hsu as her partner, the two have gone 11-1.
But Hsu attributes her success on the doubles court to Ely in turn.
“Before, I used to be more of a singles player,” Hsu said. “I never really played doubles. I guess Alexa taught me how to be more aggressive and that really helps.”
Hsu and Ely are both quick to insist that they depend on each other just as much as the team depends on them.
The senior team captain and freshman phenom have been a catalyst all season for the team’s more competitive results.
Although a young Penn squad (6-11, 0-3 Ivy) hasn’t completed its turnaround, the doubles team of Ely and Hsu is definitely pulling its weight.
The duos near perfect record is the main reason why the Quakers have earned the doubles point in nine of 17 games this season after gaining the point in just a quarter of last year’s matches.
“Connie is exceptionally solid,” Ely said. “She hits all over the court, her serves set me up. I’m never nervous when she’s on the baseline if I’m hitting cross-court. I know I can take my sweet time because she won’t miss. She won’t give them anything.”
Hsu’s impact on the Quakers’ women’s tennis program has been immediate. Touted as a top prospect going into her freshman season, Hsu has earned a spot at No. 23 in the individual national rankings with an impressive 38 wins this season, 15 of which came in the spring.
“She brings the culture of winning, which is hard to establish,” coach Sanela Kunovac said. “That carries a lot of weight. You don’t need to talk about it, but the players feel it, they have it.”
However, Hsu said, Ely has held up her end of the partnership by reaching out to the rookie off the court.
“At first, I thought it was awkward to be with the team,” Hsu said. “I think Alexa helped a lot. I mean, I’m more of a shy person, so she’d always ask me, ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘What are you doing?’ So that really helps.”
“Off the court, Alexa has a very friendly personality, where her teammates are comfortable talking to her,” she said. “She’s a very good ambassador between the coaches and the players.”
In fact, Hsu and Ely share great chemistry and open communication. Ely said she feels much more relaxed playing doubles with Hsu than others.
That relaxation has translated into a similar sigh of relief for the Red and Blue, earning more wins toward the all-important doubles point. This year the team is starting four freshmen in the six singles spots.
But the spark behind turning a corner for the Quakers relies not just on the talented freshman, but also the seasoned veteran.