Penn women’s tennis may be winless in the Ivies, but it’s certainly not discouraged.
On Friday and Saturday afternoon, the Quakers (7-7, 0-3 Ivy) will host Dartmouth (5-7, 1-1) and No. 46 Harvard (9-5, 1-1), hoping to salvage the latter half of their conference schedule.
Coming off three straight losses at the hands of Princeton, Brown and Yale, Penn has nothing but a chip on its shoulder and a mind full of vengeance.
“We had a discussion right after the Brown and Yale matches where we lost two really, really close ones,” coach Sanela Kunovac said. “We just don’t feel like we lost. We still have that optimism, and it’s not a blind optimism either. It’s backed up by sweat and blood.”
If anything, the squad can find solace in coming back home and playing outdoors — a decisive advantage for Penn.
Over spring break, the Quakers headed to California to practice playing in outdoor conditions with matches against Rhode Island, Gonzaga and UC Irvine, prevailing in its first two by 5-2 apiece and just falling to the Anteaters by a 4-3 margin.
Still, like everything else this season, the matches won’t come easily for the Red and Blue.
“Dartmouth is really tough,” Kunovac said. “Columbia may be the best team in the Ivies now, the defending champs, but Dartmouth pushed them in every single spot with a lot of three-setters when they played last week. [You] just know that Dartmouth is out for blood.”
But it’ll be the second of the back-to-back matches, Harvard, that could wreak real havoc.
Last year in Cambridge, the Quakers captured the doubles point for the early advantage, but the Crimson came from behind to win by a 4-3 margin, pushing their all-time record over Penn to 29-9.
This year, the Red and Blue’s competitive edge has been in its spectacular doubles play, with junior Sol Eskenazi and freshman Kana Daniel winning its last 10 points at the top spot, and sophomore Sonya Latycheva and junior Jaime Yapp-Shing prevailing at No. 2 in eight of its last nine decided matches.
But Harvard has also upped its doubles play since last year. Freshman duo Spencer Liang and Monica Lin are currently sitting pretty at No. 58 on the national Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.
“Harvard has been kind of in the front-runner spot the entire season,” Kunovac said. “They’ll be the toughest match until we get to Columbia. They’ve had some wins against teams that are top 10, 15 in the country. For an Ivy League team, that’s such an accomplishment.”
For the Quakers, all they want is to get the monkey off their backs with a win this weekend.