The Quakers’ opponents may have arrived at the Hecht Tennis Center as the Red Storm, but they left feeling less Red and more Blue.
On Saturday, Penn women’s tennis (11-3) secured a 5-0 home victory against St. John’s (9-4), who came into the meet hot off of a five-match win streak. Penn boasts an undefeated record at home and overwhelmed Temple with a 7-0 clean sweep last weekend. But, even with these accomplishments, the Red and Blue kept its concentration on the Johnnies and their several competitive strengths.
“We have our goals, and we’ve been very focused on the little things,” senior OJ Singh, who is also a DP staffer, said.
After sitting out the last match due to injury, freshman Yulia Bryzgalova resumed her dominance on the court, displaying a strong performance right out the gate in the doubles match with teammate Singh.
But it wouldn't be spring without a few showers, and the Johnnies applied significant pressure on some of Penn’s key players. The doubles team of senior Marta Kowalska and sophomore Marija Curnic found themselves trailing for most of their match. However, the pair never finished.
Because the Red Storm lacked the players to compete in a third doubles match, the Quakers were handed the doubles point with only one win. Undefeated pair Singh and Bryzgalova won their 11th match of the year by a score of 6-1. Their victory meant Penn had clinched the doubles point, so Kowalska and Curnic didn't need to complete their match.
“It’s just unfortunate that they didn’t have enough players," Singh said. "We had the mental edge, because it kind of eases a burden."
However, Penn was far from ready to let up, determined to give consistent results throughout the match regardless of their opponents’ numbers.
“We expected [St. John’s] to be super feisty," Singh said. "We knew that they beat Harvard and we thought it was going to be tough and a good build up to Ivies."
The persistence and high energy of the Quakers extended into the singles matches, despite the pressure put on them by the Red Storm. Penn won the first set in all but one match, with Singh and junior Ashley Zhu losing only two games overall. Bryzgalova continued her strong comeback by facing off against Jessica Livianu, the reigning Big East Player of the Year. As the games in the first set progressed, the players were so evenly matched that this was expected to be a remarkable tournament of endurance.
However, the singles event finished quickly with three strong wins made by other Penn players in rapid succession, causing the exciting Bryzgalova/Livianu match to finish prematurely — without an official winner — in the middle of the first set.
And, like in the doubles event, sophomore Jennifer Richards won via walkover. The singles competition was in stark contrast to last week’s with Temple, where the Quakers won the event after a three-hour contest.
“We wrapped it up quickly and we focused on every point and not losing stupid points that were unnecessary," Kowalska said. “It was discipline and focus."
This triumph was Penn’s final match before Ivy League play, and while the Quakers feel reassured, the players have realistic expectations for the challenges ahead.
“It definitely gives us a lot of confidence. But we're going to play outside next week, and we haven’t played outside yet,” Kowalska said. “So, it definitely gives us confidence, but at the same time we don’t feel overly cocky about it. It’s going to be helpful that we’re playing at home.”
Next weekend, the Quakers will see if the home court magic lasts as they face rival Princeton in their Ivy League season-opening matchup.
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