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Women's tennis head coach Selena Kunovac high-fives a player after a meet on April 14, 2021. Credit: Chase Sutton

Following their previous tournament at Columbia, Penn women’s tennis team continued their success this past weekend at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional.

The ITA Northeast Regional was hosted at the Clay Hamlin Tennis Center in Penn Park from Oct. 1-3. The tournament was split into a singles and a doubles division, with several Penn players competing in each.

Competing in the regional tournament were players from Penn, New Jersey Institute of Technology, St. Francis University, St. Bonaventure, Drexel, Seton Hall, Lehigh, Temple, Syracuse, Cornell, Buffalo, Princeton, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Rutgers, Niagara University, Binghamton University, Colgate, Hofstra, Rider, and Long Island University.

Penn had several players take the court this weekend. Within the 128-player singles bracket were six Penn players: graduate student Marija Curnic, junior Amanda Chan, sophomore Iris Gallo, and freshmen Saige Roshkoff, Gavriella Smith, and Eileen Wang. 

The majority of the singles rounds took place over the course of the first two days and most suffered losses during that time. During the Round of 64, Chan fell to Azra Deniz Comlek of Buffalo. After beating Kyra Bergmann of Binghamton, Wang fell to Vineetha Mummadi of Temple in the Round of 64. Gallo lost in the Round of 64 as well, falling to Miyuka Kimoto of Syracuse, following a Round of 128 win against Ally Garofoli of Rider. 

Roshkoff also picked up a win against Colgate’s Addie Eklund in two straight sets before falling in the Round of 32 to Princeton’s Neha Velaga in three sets. Curnic’s tournament run was also cut short.

Smith was the only Penn player that advanced to the Round of 16 on Oct. 3. Coming fresh off a doubles match earlier that morning, Smith faced off against Syracuse’s freshman Shiori Ito to see who would advance to the Super-Regionals on Oct. 14-17. 

Smith and Ito had a back-and-forth match. Ito picked up the first set, 6-3, but Smith came back to take the momentum and won the second set, 6-3. Smith came back down 3-2 to capture the set, winning four straight in tight games. 

All tied up, the last match was winner-take-all. The momentum of the game switched back and forth, with each player racking up game wins. However, Ito took the match win. The entire set was incredibly close and competitive. But when it was six-all, Smith slipped on the court during the match due to a shoe malfunction and scraped her arm. She switched out her shoe with a teammate’s shoe to continue playing but Ito went on to win. 

Despite the loss, Smith took the whole tournament in stride. 

“I was happy with how I played. This was my first big tournament and it was at Penn which made it better," Smith said. "[The tournament] was a good building block. I’m happy. Everything happens for the reason.” 

On the doubles side of the tournament, Smith partnered with Wang. Smith and Wang advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament, beating teams from Seton Hall and Drexel. Ultimately, they fell to the Princeton duo of Leena Bennetto and Maia Sung on Sunday morning in the quarterfinals. Roshkoff and Gallo were also partnered together, but the Temple duo of Vineetha Mummadi and Rine Nozaki defeated them in the Round of 32.

The winning doubles duo consisted of Chan and freshman Sabine Rutlauka. After beating the Cornell duo of Lan Mi and Jenny Wong, the pair advanced to the quarterfinals where they faced off against Buffalo’s Pia Schwarz and Nikoleta Antoniou-Karademitrou. In that match, they only played a single set, in which the first team to eight games won. 

After starting off slow and Buffalo gaining the momentum, the Quakers turned the tide to win the match 8-5. Chan and Rutlauka worked as a great duo, combining Rutlauka’s powerful hits and Chan’s aggressive playing style. Rutlauka credits the team’s supportive nature of one another as to why they won the match.

“We were both supporting each other … I told [Chan], ‘We got it. Let’s go,'” Rutlauka said.

And win they did. The pair have secured a spot in the Super Regionals, which will be played at Dartmouth the weekend of Oct. 14-17. Overall, coach Sanela Kunovac is proud of the work done in this competitive tournament.

“I think we can do better than this though," Kunovac said. "But not to demean the effort, but to say to the players, ‘You did well. You reached a good benchmark. But I’m pretty sure there’s a higher benchmark that you can reach to.’”

Rutlauka will see no reprieve from tennis. Right after the tournament, a group of the team boarded a plane for South Carolina for the ITA All-American Championships, "the hardest tournament in collegiate tennis," according to Kunovac. 

Rutlauka and senior Iuliia Bryzgalova will both play in the singles rounds, starting with qualifiers on Monday. Curnic and Bryzgalova will also play together as a doubles team and are already seeded in the main draw of the tournament. 

“They are both big fighters. They are both very resilient on the court. And they play with heart,” Kunovac said.