Penn graduate Kana Daniel won her opening match as the first Quaker to qualify for the NCAA Championships since 2011.

Credit: Zach Sheldon

You always want to finish your career on a high; you just rarely expect it to be the highest point in your career.

But such was the case for recent Penn graduate Kana Daniel. Daniel finished her career as a Quaker on collegiate tennis’ biggest stage. Though her tenure officially ended on Thursday, it was what she did on Wednesday that will go down as one of the defining moments in her singles’ career: qualifying for the NCAA Women’s Singles Championship and winning a round.

Daniel was the first Player to represent the Red and Blue at the collegiate tournament since 2011. In her debut match at the NCAA Championships, the Spaniard didn’t disappoint, winning her opening round match against the No. 22 seed Aldila Sutjiadi from Kentucky to advance to the round of 32.

The Quaker ran out to a fast start against the Wildcat, taking the first three games. But as quickly as Daniel started, Sutjadi responded just as swiftly, winning the next three games to level the opening set. Eventually, the seeded player had Daniel on the ropes, threatening to serve out the first set at 5-4. But from the brink of losing the set, Daniel swung the momentum back her way, going up 6-5 before breaking Sutjadi to take the first set 7-5.

In the start of the second set, it was Sutjiadi who got the first break for the set, but Daniel would come back and level the set again at 3-3. Soon after, Daniel executed a crucial break and hold to bring her to 5-3 against the Kentucky senior. With her third break of the set, the Quaker secured her first win in the NCAA tournament.

Not only did Daniel's win over Sutjadi secure her first berth into the Round of 32 at the NCAA tournament, it also proved to be her highest ranked win in her four-year collegiate win. It was not only a landmark day for Daniel, it was one for Penn women’s’ tennis as well.

Ultimately, it would be Baylor senior Blair Shankle who ended Daniel’s career, in the round of 32. Daniel lost collegiate match in a tight 6-3, 6-4 bout. She will close out her career with 68 total wins, and was granted first-team All-Ivy status in singles and was named to the second team in doubles.

As impactful as Daniel was on court, she will be remembered just as fondly by her peers for her character. Daniel, just a week before the NCAA tournament began, received the 2017 Northeast Region ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award.

And for a player as decorated and respected as Daniel, you wouldn’t want the ending to her career to be written any other way.

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