The New York Ivies were a stiff test for Penn tennis this weekend.
The Penn men’s team (13-10, 2-1 Ivy) defeated Cornell 4-3 on the road while the women’s team (8-10, 1-2) also won by the same score on home court. However, both teams struggled against strong Columbia squads.
The Quakers were seeking redemption after the men’s previous loss to Cornell (7-9, 0-2) earlier this season. In February, Penn was without its No. 1 singles player in junior Kyle Mautner. His presence this time around was instrumental in the Quakers' win. For the seventh match in a row, Mautner won in straight sets.
However, not all the Quakers were able to make it look so easy. Junior Dmitry Shatalin and sophomore Max Cancilla both fought through three sets to walk off the court victorious. Cancilla and freshman Aleks Huryn, the third slot for doubles, also were victorious after playing through a tiebreaker. This win, after a loss from Penn's No. 1 doubles pair, put the team in a good position with a 2-1 lead.
Conversely, some players lost heartbreaking matches. One of those was senior No. 5 Nicholai Westergaard. After winning the first set 6-4, Westergaard dropped the match after losing the second set and an intense tiebreaker.
Penn was not as fortunate in its match against Columbia (13-3, 2-0). The Red and Blue dropped all of their doubles matches and three of five singles matches, with the sixth match ending prematurely before a winner could be determined.
Freshman Noah Makarome and junior Kyle Mautner both won their matches in convincing fashion, sweeping both of their opponents.
At home, the women’s team fought through tough matches as well. The team was eager to prove itself in the Ivy league, after coming off two losses against Princeton and Columbia. After losing two of three doubles matches, Cornell (6-10, 0-3) could not overcome the Quakers’ momentum.
In singles, the Quakers started off hot, taking the first set on five courts. While freshman Marija Curnic won 2-0 in the fifth slot, senior Ria Vaidya lost both sets 6-4 at No. 1.
Also with a tough three-set loss, 5-7, 7-5, 10-7, was freshman Jimena Rodriguez-Benito. Luckily for the Quakers, they already secured the win at that point, having earned the fourth needed point when sophomore Ashley Zhu won her match in two sets 6-1, 7-5.
According to Zhu, today’s win is a huge confidence boost going into the rest of the Ivy League matches. She noted that the team has been facing many injuries this season, but she still believes the team is prepared to take on the rest of the Ivy League.
“Skill wise, we are definitely there, as long as we have the right mindset and the confidence,” said Zhu.
Even with the huge win against Cornell, the Quakers did not leave the weekend unscathed. After holding an early lead against Columbia (10-6, 4-2), Penn dropped the match 4-3. Rodriguez-Benito lost the deciding match to Columbia's Sarah Hu in a thrilling three-set classic.
Next weekend the men’s and women’s teams will face Brown and Yale with tough competition to follow from Dartmouth and Harvard. The wins against Cornell, despite the tough losses to Columbia, may have been just what both teams needed to finish off the season strong.