With the end of the regular season approaching, the matches are becoming more and more important for Penn men's and women's tennis.
Both teams faced off with Cornell on Friday and Columbia on Sunday. The women had a very successful weekend, sweeping both of their matches, while the men were unable to stop their Ivy League losing streak.
The men’s team (16-10, 0-5 Ivy) lost, 4-1, to Cornell (12-8, 3-0) before falling to Columbia (14-3, 4-0) by a score of 7-0 on Sunday.
The men have struggled to build momentum after a promising start to their season. At one point, the Red and Blue were undefeated at home and boasted impressive wins over Cornell, Harvard, and Dartmouth during the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships back in February. Cornell is currently undefeated in the Ivy League and has come out on top in 11 out of the past 12 meetings of the two teams.
The women (14-5, 3-2) had a markedly different weekend, notching a 5-0 win against Cornell (6-14, 0-5) on Friday before defeating Columbia (13-3, 2-2) by a score of 4-0.
Earlier in the season, the Columbia women were favored within the Ivy League, as they beat the Quakers in February during the ECAC Championships.
“We’re just a completely different team now. We knew there was room for improvement, and we were really good through February and March at filling gaps and getting ready to fire on all cylinders like we are now.” coach Sanela Kunovac said.
And fire on all cylinders they have.
The Red and Blue won the doubles point in both matches for the 10th and 11th straight occasions this season before quickly picking up singles wins to finish both matches early. The team has had great success in doubles, with three incredibly successful pairings.
“We do the right things," Kunovac said. "We penetrate, we’re very good at the net, and we have strong ground strokes. Individually, they’re good doubles players, but the way that we’ve managed to match them is that much better. We’ve managed to create a team that is better than its parts on courts 1, 2, and 3.”
On Sunday at home, the women’s matches faced a series of rain delays, providing extra challenges with a match time of over four hours. After stopping and starting multiple times, the doubles point was decided by juniors Ashley Zhu and Caroline Xie in an uncharacteristically close call for the Red and Blue.
Two games into the singles, the match moved inside due to concerns that the courts were too slippery. The Red and Blue managed to execute despite the variable conditions.
“As a coach, today I learned that our players are so adaptable," Kunovac said. "They were able to maintain their focus through the ups and downs: whether it's indoor or outdoor, slippery or not. … They were organized, they knew their resources, and they were focused. I think you could’ve put an elephant in the middle of the court and they still would’ve found a way to go around it.”
With one weekend of Ivy League play for both teams, it’s this kind of adaptability that could suit the women well. The women will face off Yale and Brown with a chance to come out on top of the Ivy League.
“This team is prepped and ready to go deep and play NCAAs if we get to qualify," Kunovac said. "So even though it’s the last weekend at home, it’s just one step towards what we’re aiming for as a team.”
The men will travel to New Haven, Conn. and Providence, R.I. to face off with Yale and Brown next weekend, while the women will play at home. The women's last two matches will help decide whether or not the team will receive an NCAA bid.