Looking to build upon his team's success at the ECAC Tournament and end the fall season with a bang, Penn women's tennis coach Michael Dowd brought many of his finest players to the ITA East Regional Championships this weekend at William and Mary. Led by the strong play of freshman Sanela Kunovac, the Red and Blue did not disappoint. Kunovac advanced to the semifinals of the prestigious tournament before falling to top seed Nataly Cahana of Old Dominion. "I felt really good," Kunovac said. "[There were] a lot of matches, a lot of tennis all day long. I came out really strong [and] played really, really well." Building on what has been an extremely successful fall season, Kunovac definitely made an even deeper impact on Dowd after this tournament. "Sanela had a great tournament," Dowd said. "She's in better shape and proved it by going all the way to the semis. Sanela, as a freshman, is one of the best players in the East, and should be nationally ranked as well." Despite her overwhelming success, Kunovac was not the only Penn participant to make waves at the tournament. Fellow freshmen Nicole Ptak and Rachel Shweky teamed to advance to the third round of the doubles bracket, as did Kunovac and junior Rochelle Raiss. "[We are] getting to know each other's games," Shweky said. "We played great together." Ptak played singles as well, advancing to the second round before getting knocked off. Junior Louani Bascara also pulled off one singles win after her first-round bye, before falling in the third round. Penn senior Shubha Srinivasan rounded out the Penn singles contingency by advancing to the final 16 of the tournament. However, the freshmen were the talk of the tourney. In addition to the obvious promise for Kunovac's season, Ptak and Shweky's performances provided much hope for the spring doubles competition. "I thought they stepped it up," Dowd said. "[They] beat Syracuse's No. 1 team and William and Mary's No. 3, then lost to Yale's No. 1 in a tiebreaker. They were very close to breaking through." This tournament, centered more on individual achievement than team success, comes on the heels of the ECACs, the season-climaxing team tournament in which Penn was very successful, upsetting Princeton on its way to the finals. "The more matches you play, the more into rhythm you are," Kunovac said of ECACs. "We have a lot of confidence right now, and we have some of the best players in the East," Dowd said. With the fall season officially at a close, all attention is now focused on the more important spring. After his team's strong showing this fall, Dowd's optimism is well founded. "We had a great fall, much better than last year," Dowd said. "We have to keep moving forward and can't get complacent. We have a long way to go." After a moment of silence, possibly reviewing his team's performance, or just enjoying the thought, Dowd added one more simple remark. "We could be Ivy champs."Comments powered by Disqus
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