Defeat was written across the faces of Penn’s women’s tennis this weekend.
Despite putting up a tremendous effort in their two-match home stand, the Red and Blue could not register a win, falling to Dartmouth on Friday and No. 46 Harvard on Saturday, both by 4-3 margins.
The Quakers are now 7-9 on the season and 0-5 in the Ivies.
“It’s really tough to have three 4-3 losses [in a row],” coach Sanela Kunovac said of her team, which also lost to Yale last weekend, 4-3. “I feel like we really wanted it more than they did. And usually the team that wants it more — it usually goes their way.”
Indeed, both contests were close. The first match was a nailbiter that remained competitive until the final seconds.
Seeking to redeem itself with a win against an underwhelming Dartmouth squad (6-7, 2-1 Ivy), Penn came out strong in doubles play, with wins by both senior Jaime Yapp-Shing and sophomore Sonya Latycheva as well as senior Stephanie Do and freshman Luba Vazhenina to pick up the doubles point.
Though junior Sol Eskenazi and Latycheva both notched singles wins in straight sets, Dartmouth captured three singles points to knot the score at 3-3, sending the match to a dramatic showdown at the fourth position between Yapp-Shing and senior captain Melissa Matsuoka .
Despite a hard-fought rally by Yapp-Shing, who pushed her opponent to three sets, she ultimately fell, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, giving the Big Green the win.
But it was the next match — the Saturday matinee against Harvard (10-6, 2-2) — that was the real heartbreaker for the Quakers.
Penn quickly captured the doubles point, but with only a singles-point win by Eskenazi, who won 6-0, 6-2, at the top spot and three straight singles victories by Harvard, the Crimson had the 3-2 edge.
The match came down to the wire at the No. 5 spot, between Do and Crimson sophomore Amanda Lin , and the No. 6 spot, between Vazhenina and Harvard freshman Hannah Morrill , played simultaneously.
Rallying beneath an oppressive sun, Do was able to pull through with a heroic third-set play, besting Lin, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, to tie the match at 3-3 and turning all attention to the contest between Vazhenina and Morrill.
“Do just came and played a player that has given so much trouble to Penn ... But she made it in three sets and put us in a position to win. She played on such an extraordinary level,” Kunovac said.
But Vazhenina — who, at times, led the tiebreak — could not keep it together, falling 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(9).
It was an emotional loss for the Quakers, who were at one time squealing in delight and boisterously cheering on their teammates and, in the next moment, dropping their heads in defeat.
A victory against a top Ancient Eight squad like the Crimson would have been a huge upset and could have marked a major game-changer in Penn’s disappointing season.
“It doesn’t get any closer than this. Three-all, third set tie-break, we had two match points,” Kunovac said. “The girl hits a volley close to the line — that’s three-inches separating us from either being up 4-3 or being down 4-3.”
The Quakers will finish their season with matches at Columbia next Friday and at home against Cornell on Sunday.
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