The Ivy season may not even be halfway done, but Penn tennis is starting to see its positions in the league become clearer.
Last weekend, the men dropped their opening matches to the daunting duo of Columbia and Cornell, both of which are ranked in the top-25.
At the same time, the women fell to Columbia on Friday before upsetting first-place Cornell in a 4-3 nailbiter.
With these results, the men (13-8, 0-2 Ivy) are tied for sixth with Brown and Princeton, while the women (8-8, 1-2) sit in fifth alongside Dartmouth and Columbia. As they stand, both standings in Ancient Eight tennis look pretty similar, but the general sentiments across both teams seem to differ slightly.
This weekend, both Red and Blue sides will go up against Brown and Yale with the men playing both of their matches on the road and the women setting up for their last home stand of the season.
When the Dartmouth women (11-6, 2-1) come to Philadelphia, the Quakers will certainly be looking to move up the standings and make a run at Harvard, who are the league’s only undefeated team in conference play. At the same time, with two losses in hand, women’s head coach Sanela Kunovac is just as concerned with the team’s development.
“The points, the wins and losses are no longer going to be our focus,” Kunovac said. “The focus is going to be the process of trusting our training and doing what we’ve done up to this point.
“If we’ve trained enough, and we’re fit enough and we’re ready to execute and we do a good job, the results will show that.”
Last Sunday, the Red and Blue made a statement with their win over then-undefeated Cornell, delivering the Big Red only their third loss of the season and recording giving the Quakers their first win in conference play.
“It was a fork in the road for us,” Kunovac said. “I like what the team did and how they formed their identity based on that match.”
“Our mind is in a better place now after this win,” senior Luba Vazhenina added.
In her final season, Kana Daniel is still hungry for that Ivy League title, but the No. 90 nationally ranked singles player and her team acknowledge that they can’t control the results of other teams, especially in a league that has demonstrated so much parity this season.
Last year’s finish was somewhat of an anomaly with Princeton winning the league outright with a 5-2 record and a number of teams standing close behind at 4-3. Kunovac believes this season might fall into a similar pattern, leading the Red and Blue to conduct their business without too much concern for results across the league.
On the men’s side, the story could hardly be more different. Although the final scores from last weekend might not have reflected the true competitiveness in some of the individual matchups, No. 20 Columbia (14-3, 3-0) and No. 25 Cornell (17-3, 2-1) have opened up a wide gap in the Ancient Eight.
“I just think that right now Columbia is the class of the field, and I’d be surprised if anyone could beat them,” coach David Geatz said.
With the hardest two matches of the Ivy season out of the way, Penn is determined to end the season on a strong note – or ideally five.
“I think everyone’s goal is to run the table for the rest of the year,” Geatz said.
Sophomore Kyle Mautner identified grabbing the doubles point as being crucial to the team’s efforts to string five wins together.
“We were right there with two top-25 teams. The score doesn’t really reflect how close the matches really were,” Mautner said.
Even with some of the positives that can be taken from last weekend, there’s no such thing as an easy Ivy League match. Brown (11-7, 0-2) and Yale (15-6, 1-2) will be no pushovers.
Mautner in particular will have his hands full with Yale’s Tyler Lu, who is the league’s top ranked singles player at 62, but the Quakers are confident nonetheless.
“If we play well, we expect to win,” Geatz said. “But we also know those guys are capable of beating us for sure.”
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