sonyalatycheva

Senior Sonya Latycheva is one of several ITA ranked players on Penn's women's tennis team, a squad which will head down south to kick off their season this week.

To be the best, you have to beat the best.

Penn women’s tennis will have a chance this weekend to start proving that they deserve the exciting expectations surrounding the program for the 2016 season as they travel to compete in the International Tennis Association Kickoff Weekend.

The tournament is reserved only for teams ranked in the top 100 in the ITA preseason rankings, and this is the first time the Red and Blue have ever qualified for the event.

The structure of Kickoff Weekend differs from the average college tennis tournament. 100 teams are split into groups of 4, seeded based on their national rankings. Each group serves as a small, 4-team bracket. The winner of each group qualifies for ITA Division I National Women’s Team Indoor Championship.

Penn, seeded fourth in its group, will head to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to face the top-seeded Crimson Tide. Texas and Purdue fill out the rest of the group.

Alabama, ranked No. 15 in the country, will be quite the early season test for the Quakers, who are coming back from winter break confident with how they played in the fall.

“We definitely finished the season really well last semester,” said junior and top singles player Kana Daniel. “We got a couple of our girls in singles ranked and [senior] Sonya Latycheva and I are ranked No. 2 in the region in doubles.

"We are very confident and over the break I could tell that we were all training really hard. We are just focused on improving. We know we are going up against big players this weekend but we are just as confident as they are.”

Qualifying for Kickoff Weekend is an honor for any team, and the Quakers are excited about what the preseason expectations say about the state of their program going forward.

“I think qualifying for Kickoff Weekend says a lot about our team," Kunovac said. “We learned we qualified in the summer so when the team came back, they came with a little extra focus and a chip on their shoulder because others recognized we are good enough to compete with the best. I think it had an effect on their inner confidence and swagger on court.”

This early test will show how the Red and Blue stack up against the very best schools in the country. A successful weekend could mean that the Quakers have arrived as force to be reckoned with on the national stage.

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