For Penn women's tennis coach Mike Dowd, things are simply going according to plan.
His Quakers head into their final weekend of Ancient Eight play with an undefeated record in the league and a firm hold on first place - an impressive performance by any standard.
But while the Red and Blue's dominance may have surprised some, Dowd expected nothing less from his team than an Ivy League title and an NCAA Tournament berth.
"We've been competing for the Ivy League title, [finishing in second place] for four years in a row and we won in 2001 and in 2002, so we've been at the top of the league," he said. "Our goal this year was to win it."
For the Quakers (15-4, 5-0 Ivy) to accomplish that goal, however, they'll have to tackle two familiar foes. The Quakers travel to Ithaca, N.Y., to face the Big Red (10-4, 3-2) today before returning to take on Columbia Saturday.
Dowd sized up the challenge the Quakers will face when they visit the Big Red.
"Cornell started off 3-0," he said. "They lost two close ones last week on the road, . but we've got to play them at their place and they've done quite well there."
Dowd didn't seem nearly as concerned about the Lions (4-8, 1-4).
"Columbia has had some bad luck and injuries on their team this year," he said. "They're probably not as good as they've been [in prior years], but they beat Dartmouth, which was the highest-ranked Ivy League team just a few weeks ago."
Junior captain Yulia Rivelis stressed that for the Quakers to succeed this weekend, they must not be distracted by putting too much focus on their opponents.
"We just need to focus on our own stuff and control the things that we can control," she said. "There's only so much that you can worry about the other team."
If the Quakers hope to come away from this weekend with an Ivy League crown and an NCAA Tournament bid, they must rely on the mainstays that have carried them all season.
Penn will turn once again to grizzled veterans such as Rivelis and co-captain Julia Koulbitskaya for their court leadership and to rising stars such as Lauren Sadaka and Ekaterina Kosminskaya for help.
With a title so close, the Quakers can't help but dream of the bigger stage that could await them. If they do earn a spot in the tournament, they will try to improve on last year's experience, which ended in a second-round loss to Georgia Tech.
"If we do get that opportunity we're going to step up our training," Koulbitskaya said. "We'll practice twice a day and hopefully do better than we did last year."Comments powered by Disqus
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