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Junior Matt Nardella picked up Penn's lone point in Friday's loss to Cornell.

Credit: Alex Fisher

The slide continues.

After opening up Ivy play with two key wins over Yale and Brown at the beginning of the month, Penn men’s tennis has failed to find similar success in four conference matches.

This weekend’s losses to the Ivy League’s New York residents, No. 55 Cornell and No. 25 Columbia, continued the unfavorable streak set a week earlier after Penn (7-15, 2-4 Ivy) fell to No. 48 Harvard and No. 36 Dartmouth.

The first of the two losses came on Friday up in Ithaca, where the Red and Blue were greeted by a strong Big Red side (12-10, 5-2), who currently sit in third place in the Ancient Eight.

Two 6-2 losses from the Quakers’ first and second doubles pairings did not set a good tone as the two sides headed into singles play. The lone win for Penn came at the fourth seed from junior Matt Nardella, who clinched his match in a three-set contest.

After Cornell grabbed its fourth point of the day, the match was called in favor of the hosts and decided with a final score of 4-1.

A very similar story played out on Sunday when the Lions (17-5, 7-0) came rolling through Philadelphia. Fantastic weather did not work in the Quakers' favor as the visitors wrestled away an extremely close doubles point to start off the match.

The team of Nardella and senior Blaine Willenborg was able to grab a 7-6 win over Columbia’s pairing of its top two singles players, but a 7-6 and a 7-5 loss in the other matches gave the Lions the point.

On the singles side of the match, Penn’s only victory was won by a familiar face as Willenborg fought his way to a three-set decider with scores of 6-2, 1-6, 4-3 (8-6).

At the top of the ladder, Mautner came close to defeating his No. 77-ranked opponent Shawn Hadavi. After splitting the first two matches with scores of 7-5 and 3-6, the two titans went into a super-tiebreaker, which was decided 10-2 for the visitor.

Columbia would end up clinching the match with a 5-1 result. In addition to the win, the Lions wrapped up their undefeated Ivy season and clinched the conference title as the lone winners.

Thinking about the weekend and taking a look at the conference as a whole, the two results — in addition to Princeton, Yale and Brown’s losses — only confirmed that this season’s Ancient Eight has largely been divided into two main blocks.

Although Columbia’s undefeated record might point to a lack of competition, the league leaders faced tough opponents in the rest of the top four: Dartmouth, Cornell and Harvard, whose standings also come in that order.

Then comes the rest of the pack. Penn and rival No. 46 Princeton (14-10, 2-4) sit tied for fifth with two conference wins apiece but do not have that much on Yale and Brown, who are both tied for seventh.

With one last match to play for the Quakers, they have one final chance to get as close to that top four as possible. Next Saturday, the Red and Blue will play host to the Tigers in a hotly contested match, the winner of which will have an outright claim to fifth place.

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