Sophomore Marta Kowalska (left) has been one of the best players for Penn in recent weeks.

Credit: Cindy Chen

Despite the weather, Penn women’s tennis is starting to heat up.

Following a successful Spring Break trip, the Quakers are looking to stay hot this weekend against St. John’s. On that trip, the Red and Blue (6-6) went 4-1, including a dominant 5-2 victory against No. 36 Florida State.

Coach Sanela Kunovac was thrilled with the team’s performance.

“We had a tremendous Spring Break. We played well, competed hard, and put ourselves in position to win each match,” she said. One of the best Spring Breaks we’ve had.”

One of the most positive aspects that came from the trip was the strengthening of the team’s chemistry. “We feel a lot closer as a team after spending a lot of time together this weekend,” All-Ivy senior Kana Daniel said.

Kunovac echoed those sentiments.

“Team chemistry has meshed really well,” she said. “I thought we were in a great place before, but the team chemistry grew more than we thought it could.”

Penn’s hot play has been anchored by the dominance of sophomore Marta Kowalska and junior Lina Qostal. Kowalska is a stellar 8-1 this spring with wins in six straight matches, and Qostal has an impressive mark of 8-3 with an eight-match win streak.

“They’ve been our two most dominant and clutch players for the past four weeks,” Kunovac said. “It’s so nice to know that when Marta and Lina go on the court, more likely than not that match is going in our favor.”

Kunovac credits the pair’s difference in playing styles for their ability to earn wins.

“Lina is very good at dominating her matchup. She makes her opponent uncomfortable and takes them out of their game, which allows her to impose her game on the opponent,” Kunovac said. “With Marta, you can watch four matches and none will be the same. She is so good at adjusting and reading the match conditions so that she can find the hole in the opponent’s game and exploit it.”

Daniel played a great slate of matches over the break as well, going 4-0. Those wins, which included a win over the 28th ranked player in the country, have given Daniel a lot of belief in her game.

“I feel very confident right now,” Daniel said. “I played four tough matches, a few where I was down and had to find ways to come back, so it was a good learning experience and I think that prepared me well for the upcoming matches.”

St. Johns’ (10-2) is led by freshman Jessica Livianu, who is currently ranked No. 49 in the country in singles. Both Daniel and Kunovac described St. John’s playing style as “feisty” and “fiery”, making them just the sort of opponent the Quakers are hoping for.

“They have a lot of persistence, a lot of fight. It will be a great match for us,” Kunovac said. “We’re expecting a big battle. A big mental battle and emotional battle, and we’ll be looking to maintain that energy for a four-hour match.”

After such a solid week, one might worry about losing focus, especially with the snow day Penn experienced on Tuesday. But Kunovac stated that is far from the case.

“Normally, the coach might give a message to the team,” she said. “But the message they are giving us is ‘we’re dialed in’ and at our first practice after getting back, they look so ready and dialed in. They’re as focused as they ever have been.”

The Quakers are locked in and ready to keep winning, no matter who is in their path.

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