What a start. In only her second tournament on the collegiate level, Penn freshman Sanela Kunovac advanced to the semifinals of the fourth annual Cissie Leary Invitational and fell only after a grueling three-set match against Penn State senior Pilar Montgomery, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. "I didn't really know what to expect," Kunovac said. "But I expected to play well." And play well she did. Kunovac was awarded a bye in the first round, and then went on to defeat Richmond sophomore Casey Cohen, junior Jan Perez of Penn State and fellow Quakers freshman Nicole Ptak before reaching her match with Montgomery. After defeating Kunovac, Montgomery lost to Temple freshman Danira Penic in the championship, 6-4, 6-2. Penn coach Michael Dowd was "very pleased" with Kunovac's performance against the experienced field, as was Quakers co-captain Shubha Srinivasan. "Sanela doing well in the tournament was not a surprise," Srinivasan said. "Coming into this [season] we are expecting her to play No. 1 for us. She is a great player." Kunovac was not the only member of the Red and Blue who shined this weekend. Before being eliminated by Kunovac in the quarterfinals, Ptak put up quite an effort. She defeated Dartmouth freshman Adren Fredeking, No. 6 seed Christina Causway of Boston University and Vanessa Bagnato, a sophomore starting player for Richmond. "[Ptak] has definitely earned a starting spot for the ECACs in three weeks," Dowd said. "[She is] improving every single day, in almost every match." The clash between the two Quakers occurred in the quarterfinals, and despite the awkwardness of competing against a teammate, Kunovac said the match was "good because we knew that either way one Penn player was going to get into the semis." In addition to the standout performances of the freshmen, Srinivasan proved her mettle by winning the consolation tournament after bowing out of the main draw. "It took a match for me to get into it," Srinivasan said. "It was just a matter of winning a good match and getting confident as I go along. I needed a good match." Another bright spot for the Red and Blue was junior Justyna Wojas, who defeated Columbia junior Joyce Chang, 6-2, 6-1. Wojas then toppled seeded freshman Kim Barfuss of Seton Hall, 6-1, 6-2. "She made a breakthrough," Dowd said. "[Wojas] played the type of consistent game that she has been trying to find for two years." Temple senior Tamara Truta then easily defeated Wojas in the third round, as Wojas won just one game in a 6-0, 6-1 match. After the tournament, Dowd was cautiously optimistic, acknowledging the Quakers' talent, but hoping for his players to perform with greater consistency. "We are looking for tough, consistent players that are willing to stay out there all day, because that is what it is going to take to win," Dowd said. "To be able to do that you need to be very fit, and that is one thing we are lacking right now -- conditioning." But the more hopeful side of Dowd peeked right back through the clouds. "If we can correct that problem -- and our players know they can physically stay on the court for five hours if they need to -- then this team could be Ivy champions." After the great start of Kunovac and Ptak, Srinivasan put it more bluntly. "Princeton better watch out," she said.Comments powered by Disqus
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