The first win is always the hardest.
Following a rough beginning to the Ivy League season, Penn women’s tennis carved out its first win in Ancient Eight play over the weekend. After starting off its conference matchups with a string of three consecutive losses, the Quakers split their matches this weekend, capturing a win at Harvard before falling to Dartmouth on Sunday.
In Saturday’s match against the 63rd-ranked Crimson (7-9, 0-4 Ivy), the Quakers (8-8, 1-4) started off by securing the doubles point with wins in each of the head-to-head affairs, winning 8-6, 8-5 and 8-4. Penn didn’t look back from there, cruising to a decisive 5-2 victory.
After sweeping the doubles matches, the singles contests were similarly impressive for the Quakers, as Penn showcased a level of dominance not previously on display in Ivy League play this year. At the first singles position, senior captain Sol Eskenazi won in three sets, while junior Sonya Latycheva was simply unstoppable at the No. 3 slot on her way to a 6-4, 6-0 victory.
Additionally, strong play from sophomore Kana Daniel and freshman Ria Vaidya — seeded second and fifth, respectively — led to two more points for the Red and Blue.
“The Harvard match was terrific,” coach Sanela Kunovac said. “Every team is very good at the No. 1, 2 and 3 spots, so winning all three of those matches was a great accomplishment.”
With its first Ivy win under its belt, Penn came out ready to play against the Big Green (15-5, 2-2) after a gritty performance the day before. But in what was likely each squad’s most suspenseful matchup of the season, Dartmouth edged out the Quakers, 4-3, in a nail-biter.
After victories by freshmen Lina Qostal and Vaidya, as well as senior Alexandra Ion at the No. 4, 5 and 6 positions, the score was knotted at three points apiece.
“One of the aspects of team play is that different players will step up at every match,” Kunovac said. “At Harvard, the No. 1 to 3 seeds all won their matches, and against Dartmouth, our No. 4 through 6 seeds stood up to the challenge.”
With the match tied, all eyes were on the first singles matchup between Eskenazi and Dartmouth sophomore Taylor Ng.
After dropping the first set, Eskenazi came back from a 4-1 deficit in the second set, and won in a tiebreaker. The third set featured a back-and-forth exchange of points between the two players.
And with the set tied at six, Ng prevailed by winning a tiebreaker. The final result of the match was 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5) in Ng’s favor.
Regarding the dramatic finale, Kunovac was highly impressed.
“Sol did not leave one ounce of energy on the court,” Kunovac said. “There was no stone left unturned.”
While a win in Hanover would have been a great momentum boost, Penn’s performance in the loss still indicated that it was playing at a higher caliber than in previous matches. Until Saturday, the team had not scored more than two points in any of their three conference matches; they eclipsed that total in both of the weekend’s matches.
With two matches remaining in the season — on the road at Cornell on April 17 and home against Columbia on April 19 — Penn women’s tennis hopes to replicate the strong performances from this past weekend.
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