Even though the Penn women's tennis team will be surrounded by glittering casinos and palm trees when it heads to Las Vegas and California over spring break, its time in the West won't be too relaxing -- the five nationally-ranked teams the Quakers will face will probably be their toughest matches of the season. For the first time ever, Penn will face top-ranked Stanford -- a team Penn coach Michael Dowd describes as "quite possibly the best college team of all time." The Cardinal, whom Penn will play on March 20, are 15-0 this season and are currently on a 33-match winning streak that began over a year ago. Stanford has only lost one point in its last 13 matches and is the only team in the top 10 that has defeated No. 2 California and No. 3 Georgia. In addition, Stanford currently holds the National Team Indoor Championships title. Three of the Cardinal -- No.1 singles Laura Granville, No. 5 Marissa Irvin and No. 6 Lauren Kalvaria -- are in the top 20 national singles rankings. "It will be fun playing them when half their team is going pro," Penn senior captain Elana Gold said. Gold believes that while the competition will obviously be tough, the Quakers aren't under much pressure and have nothing to lose. "Mike [Dowd] has predicted all year that we'll play our best tennis against Stanford," Gold said. "But it's going to be fun. That's why we go on spring break." The Quakers will begin their matches in Las Vegas when they play No. 68 UNLV on Sunday, March 12. Rebels senior Katarina Malec is ranked No. 20 in the rankings released March 1. The doubles team of Malec and sophomore Marianne Bakken received their first national ranking at No. 42. On March 13, the Quakers will challenge No. 44 Illinois State. Both teams currently hold a 4-5 record this season. Penn will play one more match at the UNLV courts -- against No. 52 Oklahoma State -- before moving on to California. The Quakers will play 24th-ranked Fresno State, which is currently 7-2, on March 18. And, saving the best for last, the Quakers will face Stanford on March 20 before heading home. Off the tennis courts, the Quakers plan to catch a few Vegas shows -- including Sigfried and Roy and a trapeze act -- and kick back and enjoy the West Coast. Even though the competition will be fierce, Penn senior Anastasia Pozdniakova has a laid-back attitude about the Quakers' upcoming matches. Pozdniakova believes the Quakers will have fun over spring break. She also thinks the trip will ultimately help them in the Ivy season -- which begins April 1 against Princeton. "Being relaxed will help us play better at Ivies," she said. "We have nothing to lose against these schools, so we just have to go out there and play our best." Penn sophomore Jolene Sloat sees spring break as a good opportunity to play schools that Penn usually doesn't get to play, and she believes that seeing a wide range of schools can only help the Red and Blue. In preparation for these very tough matches, the Quakers have been training especially hard in practice. In addition to spending hours on the tennis courts, the team hits the weight room and the track during practice. Dowd believes the results from these workouts will show during the spring break matches. "We're starting to see some results and some confidence," he said. "If we beat Stanford, it will be the biggest Penn upset of all time. And that's what we plan to do."Comments powered by Disqus
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