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M. Tennis v. Drexel 10am 1/29 Credit: Dan Getelman

After two consecutive one-win seasons in the Ivy League, Penn kicked off its conference slate Saturday looking to get off on the right foot against Princeton.

In a hotly contested match, the Quakers lost, 4-3, after taking charge early by winning the doubles point.

“To win the doubles playing against them was huge because they rarely lose their doubles,” coach Nik DeVore said. “But obviously, it was disappointing not to win when it was definitely there.”

After winning the doubles point, the Red and Blue (10-2, 0-1 Ivy) found themselves locked in a nailbiter.

Senior Hicham Laalej was handed his first loss of the season at No. 1 singles and two other Quakers lost their singles matches to put the team in a hole. Freshmen Ivan Turudic and Nikola Kocovic, playing No. 3 and No. 6 singles, respectively, won their matches and knotted up the score.

At this point, the outcome of the match fell into the hands of Penn junior Phil Law, who had the chance to clinch the victory with a win at No. 4 singles against freshman Augie Bloom.

In the battle between seasoned veteran and spry rookie, it was Law — playing despite sitting out all week after pulling a muscle in his lower back — who was outplayed in the end. Bloom won the match and claimed the victory for the Tigers in a three-set heartbreaker.

“His mobility was definitely hampered in the match, which prevented him from playing offensively,” DeVore said. “But Phil really fought his tail off, and you couldn’t ask any more of him.”

The matchup pitted two of the three highest-ranked Ivy teams as Penn currently sits at No. 60, Princeton at No. 62 and Cornell No. 55.

However, this is the fourth-straight time the Quakers have lost to Princeton (8-6, 1-0), dating back to the 2006-07 season — also the last time Penn won its Ivy season opener.

The Quakers have struggled in recent years during Ivy play after amassing strong nonconference records.

“Obviously it’s disappointing because it was a huge opportunity to play one of the best teams in the league on the road and come away with a win,” DeVore said. “But our guys are really intense and if we play with that kind of intensity, we’re going to do very well.”

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