Two hundred and twenty.
That’s the number of days of the women’s tennis season — from the team’s first tournament Sept. 10 to its final match against Columbia this past Sunday.
For most teams, that may seem like a lot of time. But the women’s tennis team needed every day possible because it faced a tall order: build a team with four starting freshmen from all across the nation, helped along by just two veteran seniors.
After a long nonconference schedule followed by a tough stretch of Ivy play against nationally ranked opponents, the Quakers finally achieved the goal of every team which dons the Red and the Blue: an Ivy League victory.
The triumph occurred last Friday against Cornell — 218 days into the season. The second victory came two days later against Columbia, bringing Penn’s record to 8-13, 2-5 Ivy.
Though two league victories may appear modest, it is an improvement from last year’s winless Ivy season.
For coach Sanela Kunovac, the objective results of the season matter little.
“The team — and our goals for the team — are moving in the right direction,” Kunovac said. “I can’t say about this season in isolation, I have to compare it to the one when we had no players and [were] starting from scratch.”
Captain Alexa Ely, one of the two seniors on the team, has witnessed better seasons from the standpoint of the win-loss column. For her, however, standings are not the only — or even primary — way to gauge the success of a season.
“We got really good results my freshman year. We should have won Ivies,” she said in reference to a second-place Ivy campaign in 2007-08. “But the chemistry between the coaches and players that we have right now is absolutely perfect.”
Due to the large number of incoming freshmen, it was paramount to build that chemistry beginning in September. As captain, it was Ely’s job to ensure the much-needed team dynamic was forged as soon as possible. According to Ely, her new teammates made that job much simpler.
“Our freshmen are very confident, and they’re quiet and easygoing, so it was a very easy position for me,” Ely said. “They were always very open to hear what I had to say. It was a really good dynamic within the team.”
For Kunovac, getting those freshmen ready to play consisted of more than just the technical aspects of the game.
It was key “for the freshmen to believe, not just to be good, but to believe how good they are and what they are capable of doing,” she explained.
Though the Quakers ended the season with a losing record, the squad’s youth — along with newly created camaraderie — leaves next season looming large.
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