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Junior Louani Bascara was one of the top performers for the Penn women's tennis team last season. Penn opens its home season this weekend hosting the Cissie Leary Invitational. (Stefan Miltchev/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

The 2000-01 season figures to be an interesting one for the Penn women's tennis team. Despite the loss of two senior captains and his top returning player, Quakers coach Michael Dowd insists that this is not a rebuilding year. The Red and Blue lost Anastasia Pozdniakova and Elana Gold to graduation last spring. The two had formed the one-two punch of a Penn team that finished 13-10 overall and a strong 5-2 in the Ivy League last season. On top of the graduation of these senior captains, the Quakers will also be without star Lenka Beranova, who left the team for personal reasons. After a strong showing at the William and Mary Invitational this past weekend, Dowd has confidence that a couple of freshmen can step in and fill the void left by these seemingly devastating losses. Dowd took only three players to Williamsburg, Va., to compete in the tournament. Freshmen Rachel Shweky, Nikky Ptak and Sanela Kunovac were given their first opportunities to compete for the Quakers. Despite having to shake off a case of the nerves in her first match, Ptak had a particularly impressive tournament, defeating top players from Richmond and Maryland, two teams who are nationally ranked ahead of Penn. Overall, Ptak was pleased with the performance of the emerging young players on her team. "We played very well considering it was our first tournament," Ptak said. "I hope that we can all become strong assets to this team." The brightest star to emerge from the courts at William and Mary was Kunovac. In her first tournament, the freshman defeated the Tribe's Delphine Troch, the No. 34-ranked player in the country. "This may be the highest ranked player a Penn player has ever beaten," Dowd said. While the historical annals can neither confirm nor deny this, one thing is sure: Kunovac is for real. "I expect Sanela to step in and play No. 1 [singles] as a freshman," Dowd said. If the stellar group of freshmen are unable to meet these lofty expectations, the Quakers have nothing to worry about. "This is the deepest team we've had in years," captain Jolene Sloat said. "It's nice to know that if anyone goes down with an injury, there are a number of girls who can step up and take her place." This depth makes it difficult to choose a lineup, but it also pushes the team harder to compete in practice. "Our team is very tight-knit, but we still go out and compete against each other every practice," Sloat said. Except for the three freshmen that Penn took to William and Mary, practice has been all the tennis that the Quakers have had this fall. Coming off a summer away from the game, conditioning and repetition are crucial to getting back into tennis shape. The Quakers hope that the hard work they have put in thus far will pay off this weekend as the Quakers host the Cissie Leary Invitational at the Levy Tennis Pavilion and the Lott Courts. The tournament, which will take place tomorrow through Sunday, will give Penn a chance to compete against some of the best teams on the East Coast. In addition to the good competition, the tournament has a special meaning for many of the players, and particularly coach Dowd. The fourth-year head coach served as an assistant under Leary during her 20-year tenure at the helm of the Penn women's tennis team before her unfortunate passing in 1996.

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