Despite a finals loss to a Virginia squad that he described as "beatable," Penn women's tennis coach Mike Dowd took nothing but positives from his team's trip to Princeton for the ECACs this past weekend. "We had a great weekend at Princeton," Dowd said. "And we're only getting better." The Quakers were riding high coming into this past weekend after a number of strong individual performances at the Brown Invitational two weeks ago. They carried that momentum into a first-round 7-0 drubbing of Georgetown that saw the hapless Hoyas fail to win a single set. Penn followed that up with another shutout of James Madison and appeared to be on cruise control heading into the semifinals. After rolling over their first two opponents, Dowd and his team started to believe they had a chance to claim the ECAC championship. "I thought, hey we're playing pretty well; we've got a good chance to win this thing," Dowd said. Impeding the progress of the Quakers juggernaut was host and No. 1 seed Princeton. The semifinal match against the Tigers took on significance beyond this immediate tournament. The past three times Penn and Princeton have faced off in the ECACs, the winner has gone on to win the regular season match-up in the spring as well. Things did not look good for the Red and Blue after losing the doubles point and the top two singles matches. The Quakers responded gamely, however, winning the next four matches. The last of these was a three-set victory by co-captain Jolene Sloat over Jackie Arcario, 5-6 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4. "Everyone else was done, and I was down 1-3 in the third, but hearing all of my teammates cheer for me really motivated me to come back and win the match," Sloat said. The upset advanced Penn to the finals to face No. 3 seed Virginia. The Cavaliers would prove to be too much to handle, eding the Quakers, 4-3. Everyone in the Red and Blue lineup was forced to play in a higher spot after Sanela Kunovac went down with an injury in her doubles match. Even after the loss, Dowd spoke in glowing terms of his team's play. "Nikki Ptak, the freshman, and Louani Bascara, for the second tournament in a row, just dominated," Dowd said. Both Bascara and Ptak went 4-0 on the weekend, with neither dropping a set through the duration of the tournament. "Everyone played great the whole weekend," Ptak said. "In our last match, we all had to step up and play a higher position, and everyone met the challenge and played really well." The strong play from the top of the lineup on down not only impressed Dowd, but it instilled a sense of confidence in the young team that will be crucial as it prepares for the spring season. "Knowing we were one match away from winning the tournament, especially without Sanela, now we know we can beat anybody," Ptak said. The Quakers will have one more chance to display their mettle November 3-7 in the ITA individual tournament at William and Mary. No matter the individual outcome in the last fall tournament, the team victory over Princeton put a great final touch on team play for the season. In addition, it may have put the Quakers in the driver's seat for the Ivy League season. "We were the last Ivy team standing, and we beat the defending Ivy champion on their court," Dowd said. "If we continue to improve and don't look back, we could be the Ivy favorites this year."Comments powered by Disqus
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