After two weeks off the courts, Penn women’s tennis served up a big win at home.
The Quakers defeated Albany, winning 5-2 at the Hecht Tennis Center Saturday afternoon. Despite not having played since Feb. 7 when it took down Drexel flawlessly at home, Penn jumped right into the match showing no signs of slipping in form during the lull.
Beginning by securing the doubles point, the Quakers (4-3) doubled their advantage shortly after with a comfortable two-set victory for freshman Marta Kowalska.
At the top of the ladder, junior Kana Daniel continued her dominant play tacking on another point for the home team, paving the way for her classmate Luba Vazhenina to seal the triumph over the visiting Great Danes (3-3).
Coach Sanela Kunovac believes the extra time off allowed her side to come out with an added edge at home.
“It was nice to have a week off. The men had an ECAC tournament here so we just trained,” she said. “We got a chance to do some tweaking and different ways to come out on the courts, starting from the doubles. We accomplished the goals we set last week after the Drexel match, so in that sense I’m very pleased with what we did in our week off.”
After improving her record to 4-0 on the season at the top spot, Daniel credited her training for the 6-2 score lines in both sets.
“I was just focusing on what I was doing in practice. Right now we’re in midseason and school is getting a bit more stressful, so I’ve just been focusing on improving something new every day,” she said. “I feel like I gave all my effort today given I was a little tired, but I was excited to play. I think I was able to play progressively better throughout the match.”
While they may not have played a match last weekend, it most certainly was not an off-week, as the Quakers spent a commendable amount of time at the Fox Fitness Center while off court.
Sophomore Lina Qostal explained that the team was sure not to slack off during the brief hiatus and focus on strength and conditioning.
“Last weekend when we had it off we took that opportunity to really work hard at the gym so we lifted a little bit more weight than usual. So now we feel better physically and I think that was the key to us winning today,” she said.
Qostal also shared a new warmup drill incorporated into the pre-match rituals for doubles partners. It involves a series of volleys followed by an overhead at net, meant to raise the girls’ confidences and get them hitting hard immediately.
“It really pumps us up and gives us good energy,” she added.
Looking ahead, Penn will face perennial powerhouse Maryland at home in what should be a grueling match for all involved. Kunovac aims to right the wrongs of four years of defeats to the Terrapins going back to the 2011-12 season.
“Maryland is a team that the last three seasons we’ve lost to at 4-3, 5-2, 4-3, so they are in many ways equivalent to an Ivy match for us in terms of the level of play of their team, but also in intensity that they bring,” she said.
“I think we’re going to take notes from today’s match, see what we did well, and really try to walk into that match as favorites. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Today’s win represents the fourth in a string of impressive showings at home including overcoming a 57th-ranked Old Dominion and a fiery Rutgers squad.
Perhaps the friendly confines of Hecht can continue to provide a spark for the Quakers against fierce upcoming competition.
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