Coming off its first Ivy League win of the season last weekend, Penn women’s tennis hoped to build on that confidence as two ranked opponents, Harvard and Dartmouth, arrived in Philadelphia.
With a 4-3 win over Harvard and a 5-2 victory against Dartmouth, the Quakers (10-7, 3-2 Ivy) did just that.
On Saturday, the Red and Blue, currently ranked 74th by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, played host to No. 63 Harvard. The Crimson (10-9, 0-4) visited Penn in the midst of a strong season, including a win over top 25-ranked Fresno State, but still in search of its first conference win.
The Quakers got off to a good start, winning the doubles point with wins by the pairings of sophomore Ria Vaidya and freshman Marta Kowalska and junior Luba Vazhenina and sophomore Lina Qostal.
Despite the momentum, the Quakers dropped three consecutive singles matches ad quickly found themselves one match away from losing. Needing three wins of their own, the Red and Blue rattled off two straight-set wins by Qostal and junior Kana Daniel.
Tied at three, the match rested on the racquet of Kowalska. After winning the first set, 6-4, and dropping the second, 6-2, she dug deep in the third to gut out a clutch 7-5 third set victory to clinch the match for the Quakers.
Penn coach Sanela Kunovac said her team’s mental strength allowed them to fight back and earn the victory.
“I think, because of our mentality, we were able to play down to the wire,” she said. “It could have been anyone’s match but our freshman came up big for the second week in a row.”
On Sunday, the Red and Blue came out slow against No. 52 Dartmouth, dropping the doubles point.
“I think there was a little bit of a letdown after the big win against Harvard. We felt prepared but when the points started rolling, we just didn’t play our usual game,” Kunovac said.
Just like the day before, Penn responded in a big way. Needing to win four of the six singles matches, the Quakers were victorious in five, including the match-clinching win by senior Sonya Latycheva.
“We knew this is our home where we have an amazing record, and we have a bunch of tenacious players who thrive in adversity,” Kunovac said. “We are not used to losing the double point but we did, and their attitude was just like, ‘Here we go single, let’s get four wins.”
Latycheva, preparing for her final matches of her Penn career, is ready for a few more big victories this season.
“I want a nice big 'W' against Cornell and Columbia. Obviously I just want to go out and have fun with my teammates,” she said.
“It’ll be my last home match, hopefully with a nice big crowd, and we can share the moment together.”
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