For Penn women’s tennis, 2015 was a streaky but ultimately successful season. By the year’s end, the team had notched several wins against nationally ranked teams and generated excitement for bigger things to come in 2016.
The Quakers opened the spring season very well, winning five of their first six matches, all against nonconference opponents. However, they then proceeded to lose three straight matches against teams ranked inside the top 55 in the country, including dropping a 7-0 decision to No. 33 Arizona State.
As the Red and Blue entered the Ivy League season, they seemed to be capable of playing high-level tennis against tough opponents, but were struggling to finish good teams off. After three straight losses to start conference play, something changed. The Quakers finished their season by winning three of four, all against nationally ranked opponents, including wins against No. 63 Harvard and No. 75 Cornell. On Senior Day, they upset No. 46 Columbia, closing out the year 10-8 overall, and setting the bar high for next season.
Along with a fantastic stretch to close out the season, the play of rising sophomores Lina Qostal and Ria Vaidya is promising for the Red and Blue. The two freshmen played in the No. 4 and 5 singles spots, respectively, and finished with winning records.
Along with the younger talent, the Quakers will also be returning rising senior Sonya Latycheva and rising junior Kana Daniel. They rotated at the No. 2 and 3 positions, and were regulars in the starting doubles lineups. Latycheva was awarded second-team All Ivy honors for her doubles play, mostly with Sol Eskanazi, whose graduation may have the biggest impact on this young Penn squad.
Eskanazi leaves Penn as one of the most decorated players in program history, finishing with a combined singles and doubles record of 150-55. Eskenazi was named First-team All-Ivy in singles four consecutive seasons, and First-team All-Ivy in doubles for three straight seasons, along with one Second-team All-Ivy honor in doubles. Eskenazi was also honored as a co-recipient of Penn Athletics’ Association of Alumnae Fathers’ Trophy in her senior season, which acknowledges the on- and off-field accomplishments of a graduating senior athlete. Eskenazi, along with senior captain and No. 6 singles player Alexandra Ion, will certainly be missed in 2016.
Despite the loss of Eskanazi and Ion, the Red and Blue have a lot to look forward to with their incoming freshman class of Caroline Xie, Marta Kowalska, and Ojasvinee Singh. Xie, a San Diego native, was rated as highly as the third best recruit in the country as she competed at the international junior and professional level. Kowalska, from Poland, was ranked as high as 443 in the world in junior tennis.
Singh, out of Visakhapatnam, India, could be one of the most highly touted recruits in the Ivy League, reaching No. 78 in the International Tennis Federation junior rankings this May.
Despite the loss of two starters, including one of the best women’s tennis players that Penn has ever seen, there is plenty of reason to believe that the Quakers could compete for an Ancient Eight title next year. With the great end-of-season play, the young talent with a year of experience under their belts, and an impressive recruiting class, the Ivy League and the rest of the nation have a lot to watch out for in the Red and Blue next year.
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