Freshman Marta Kowalski (foreground) looks forward to hitting the court in Texas as the Quakers head south for their first extended road trip of the season. 

Credit: Cindy Chen

Although they’ll be under the sun, there will be no break for Penn women’s tennis over the next week.

The Quakers will be heading to Texas for four matches against tough opponents, such as UT-Arlington and UT-Austin, spanning the week of spring break.

The Red and Blue (5-3) are riding high right now, coming off a big 5-2 victory over a strong Maryland team at home and are currently enjoying a five-game winning streak. Despite their soaring success already, coach Sanela Kunovac has no interest in letting up and emphasizes the challenges ahead.

“I think it’s very important for us to be going up against really good teams, which is what we’re gonna get in Texas, outdoor tennis, and to be on the road several matches in a row,” Kunovac said. “That’s really important since the first three matches of our Ivy season we are on the road, and usually the first three really set the tone, so it’s important for the team to adjust to being on the road, since we’re pretty good at home.”

Echoing these sentiments, freshman Marta Kowalska is looking forward to the opportunity to battle new opponents over break.

“So far we mostly play teams from around our area, so I’m definitely excited to see how players differ and how the level of play differs in different areas,” Kowalska said. “It’s going to be challenging and exciting.”

Penn will first take on North Texas on Sunday in Denton, before driving through the lone star state to Arlington, Austin and finally Houston, completing their tour with a match against Rice. Over the course of the week, they will traverse roughly 500 miles of Texas terrain, raising the question of fatigue for Kunovac’s team. Despite the long distances, senior Sonya Latycheva dismissed the notion of travel weariness.

“We’ve all played juniors before coming to Penn and that’s one of the things as a tennis player you’re supposed to do is travel and go from hotel to hotel, so we’re kind of used to that,” she said. “It will be a nice experience to go through it together as a team.”

Upon returning from break, the Ivy League season is just around the corner, with the only buffer coming in the form of a home match with St. John’s.

Next up will be visits to Princeton, Yale and Brown. As such, Kunovac stresses the need to face tough competition to prepare for what’s ahead.

“We can expect them to protect their home turf really well. One of the reasons we scheduled this was because we wanted to get pushed at the level we expect from the Ivies or better,” she said. “So we hope for that, and we don’t want to get a win because we have an inferior opponent. We want to earn it.”

The women will not be the only Quakers hitting the road over break, as the men’s team is taking a trip westward to Colorado and California. Their tour will include five matches, with the first three being played in the shadow of the Rockies before hopping over to sunny San Diego.

The Red and Blue (4-7) will look to find their form on the road after a turbulent stretch that included a rough 5-2 defeat at home against Penn State just after dominating visiting New Mexico 6-1.

They will kick off their excursion with weekend matchups against Denver and Colorado before taking on Air Force on Tuesday. Penn’s next stop will be the Golden State’s southern coast to clash with San Diego and San Diego State.

The men have even more of an impetus to crystalize their game over break than the women do, as they will be ushered into Ancient Eight play in just a month’s time, with no scheduled matches after leaving California. The beginning of April will see them kick off at home against Yale and Brown, putting an added emphasis on performances this coming week before the grind of the Ivy season gets under way.

So while the vast majority of students will be looking to find some rays to soak up this spring break, Penn tennis will be toiling in the heat as the season warms up.

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