Coming in hot having won three straight conference matches and with the Ivy League title on the line, it made for a competitive weekend for Penn women’s tennis.
After jumping up 22 spots in the ITA rankings from 74 to 52 following wins over Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend, the Quakers split their final Ivy doubleheader, falling to No. 63 Cornell on Friday, 5-2 at home before rebounding the season finale in New York against No. 34 Columbia, 4-3.
“what we really wanted from the coaching perspective was just for the team to play up to its capabilities because Columbia was the highest-ranked team in the Ivies,” Penn coach Sanela Kunovac said. “they’ve had a really strong season.”
On Friday against Cornell, the Big Red took an early lead, claiming the first four points. Junior Kana Daniel picked up her 11th win of the season and the Red and Blue’s first point of the day with a 6-3, 7-6 triumph over Marika Cusick, and sophomore Ria Vaidya came back from a 5-1 deficit in the first set to defeat Lizzie Stewart, 7-6, 6-3. The loss eliminated the Quakers from contention for the conference title.
While the team’s final match against Columbia did not have title implications for the Red and Blue, it did for the Lions. If Columbia had won, they would have shared the Ivy League title with Princeton, who successfully defended its title.
However, the Quakers played spoiler. Junior Luba Vazhenina and sophomore Lina Qostal led off the day with a doubles victory, and the duo of Daniel and senior Sonya Latycheva won as well to clinch the doubles point for Penn. Meanwhile, the doubles match featuring Vaidya and her sister, Kanika Vaidya of Columbia, was suspended with Penn leading, 6-5. In singles play, the Red and Blue’s three wins came from Latycheva, Kowalska and Vazhenina.
Latycheva, as the team’s only senior, was honored on Friday on Senior Day at the Hamlin Courts. She earned first team All-Ivy honors in her freshman season and second team in her junior, both alongside former partner Sol Eskenazi. She went 14-3 with Daniel this season to improve to 78-31 in her collegiate doubles career, adding 48 singles victories.
“She played unbelievably well today and was really the point we needed in both singles and doubles,” Kunovac said of the graduating star. “She really left the team in much better shape in both the level of tennis and standing in the Ivy League, and that says a lot.”
While Penn did not win the Ancient Eight, the team’s share of second place is its best standing since 2008, when the Quakers had followed up their 2007 conference title with a second-place finish. Second place is even more impressive given the Ivy League was the only Division I conference to have all of its teams ranked in the most recent ITA rankings.
Penn, for its part, defeated five ranked teams this season, with the final one being perhaps the most impressive, as the Lions were the highest-ranked of Penn’s victories.
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