Spring is in full swing for Penn tennis as both the men’s (12-8, 4-1 Ivy) and women’s (11-8, 1-4) teams have fiercely sprung into Ivy League play.
As the Quakers reach the home stretch of the season, both teams find themselves on opposite sides of the win column. In conference play, men’s has won all but one game, but the women’s squad has lost all but one in the month of April. Despite the dramatically different results, both teams still sit above .500 overall, with two matchups left on the schedule.
Men’s tennis has been red hot on the court throughout conference play, finding its groove under new coach Rich Bonfiglio. The Quakers still remain undefeated at home, boasting a perfect 7-0 season record at the Hamlin/Hecht Tennis Centers and a 22-game home winning streak overall.
The streak was in danger of being snapped on April 7 when the team faced off with No. 30 Cornell, but the Red and Blue emerged victorious in a thrilling back-and-forth matchup. Freshman Manfredi Graziani and senior Aditya Gupta kicked off the action with a decisive 6-1 doubles victory, while the pair of sophomore Zachery Lim and senior Harsh Parikh quickly followed with a 6-4 win. Control of the individual matches alternated between the Quakers and the Big Red, but Parikh’s tiebreaker singles victory put Penn on top with a 4-3 final score.
“The first half of the season was challenging, not only because we had hard opponents, but also because we had a new coach, which does make a big difference. Our fall was slightly all over the place,” Graziani said. “I think it's been us getting used to new doubles partners, just a new team in general, and a new way of coaching.”
Even more impressive is the mastery that the men’s team has shown on the road in the second half of the season. The Red and Blue have won three of four in April as the visiting team, picking up wins at No. 46 Princeton, Yale, and Brown. The only loss of the month came in a hard-fought contest at No. 11 Columbia — where Penn ultimately fell in a winner-take-all match.
“We're currently 50 in the country. We probably have to get to 46 to make NCAAs,” Gupta said on the team's goals for the rest of the season. “Last year we made it, and it would be great to make it again this year. It's going to be really tight, but with the way we're playing right now, I think we can do it.”
Women’s tennis is also showing strength on the road, securing its first Ivy win on April 7 at Cornell. Sophomore Eileen Wang and freshman Juliana Munhoz picked up their first victory as a pair, while sophomores Gavriella Smith and Saige Roshkoff secured the doubles point with a 6-3 win.
A dominant singles performance also aided in the 4-2 victory. Freshman Maya Urata secured her 10th win of the spring season during the match, and Roshkoff dominated the court to put the Quakers up 3-2. Junior Iris Gallo came back from an early loss to seal the deal with victories in her second and third sets.
“I thought we did a really good job of transitioning from indoor tennis to outdoor tennis, which is pretty much what the last month was,” women’s tennis coach Sanela Kunovac said. “We picked that back up when we came to Penn and I think based on our record, you can see that the transition has been successful.”
Women’s tennis hasn’t had the same home-court advantage in recent weeks, though, dropping all four of its April home games in tough losses. The Quakers’ last three games against Columbia, Yale, and Brown were identical 0-4 shutouts — a streak they’ll look to snap as the season winds down.
“Our goal is to trust our training, engage in the competition with a very happy mindset,” Kunovac said. “You’ve done everything you’ve needed to do up to this point — now it's time to just put it on autopilot.”
Penn tennis will play its final matchups against Harvard and Dartmouth on April 22 and 23, respectively. The men’s team will look to continue their undefeated streak at home, while the women’s team will close out the season on the road.