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Battling for an Ivy title

(04/19/01 9:00am)

It's no mirage. The tennis court has indeed become a battlefield and the once-docile Quakers have transformed themselves into soldiers on a vital mission -- to become the first Penn women's tennis team in history to win an Ivy League title. This weekend Penn will take on both Cornell and Columbia, the only schools in the Ancient Eight that stand in the way of the Quakers' Ivy supremacy. The Red and Blue will meet the Big Red on the road in Ithaca, N.Y., on Friday, which is all the more reason for the Penn team to assume a fighting stance going into the match. Although Cornell was shut out by Yale last weekend, the Big Red beat Dartmouth, 6-1. Penn's win over the Big Green was only by a 5-2 margin. Cornell is currently 2-3 in the Ivy League, and a win against the Quakers would mean a winning season for its squad. "This is a team that has nothing to lose," Penn coach Mike Dowd said of Cornell. "They're going to come out firing." Columbia, which will face the Penn squad at home on Sunday, also deserves recognition as a serious opponent. Last season, the Quakers barely beat the Lions, 5-4. The decisive match was won on a tie breaker. Earlier this season, Columbia played an extremely close match against Cornell, and lost by only one, 4-3. "They're young and they're feisty and they've got some talent," Dowd said about Columbia's squad. In other words, despite its recent winning streak, the Penn team has no room to back off on its intensity. However, according to Penn senior co-captain Shubha Srinivasan, the Quakers' determination is unwavering. "We know that any team can beat us on any given day," Srinivasan said. "We know our intensity will help us." The Quakers have been hacking their way toward the Ivy title all season. Last week's victory over Harvard was Penn's first win against the Crimson in 20 years. "We were dancing on the courts [after the Harvard match]," Srinivasan said. "It was a great feeling for an athlete. I cried so much." These sorts of intense emotions are an asset to the team, according to Penn junior co-captain Jolene Sloat. "I'm nervous," Sloat said, "but I play better when I'm nervous." Sloat also attributes her team's momentum so far this season to the bond it shares as a squad. Like pledging or boot camp, training has drawn the Quakers together to form a tightknit unit. "Our closeness makes us play so much better because we're playing for each other," Sloat said. Sloat is optimistic about this weekend despite a sore back that has been bothering her since the Quakers' March 30 match against Princeton. Dowd also alluded to various "banged-up" knees and shoulders on the Penn squad but noted that the team looked tough in practice this week. The Quakers are ready to continue their mission this weekend. "If we play the way we've been playing we should be able to do this," Sloat said. "But anything can happen."

W. Tennis `positively' destroys two Ivy foes

(04/09/01 9:00am)

Collegiate tennis is often just as much about attitude and confidence as it is about talent and skill. And the Penn women's tennis team proved the merit of a positive attitude case and point this weekend, when it stomped Yale and Brown, 6-1 and 7-0 respectively, bringing the Quakers to 3-0 in the Ivy League and 12-6 overall. The Quakers' positivity this season starts at the sidelines. "Go Shubes and Lou," and "Pick it up one," are typical of the cheers that have been spilling over the balcony of the Levy Tennis pavilion during this season's matches. Leading the cheering section during the doubles portion of the matches is Penn junior co-captain Jolene Sloat, who treads back and forth across the balcony, keeping an eye on her teammates and shouting encouragement between every point. Her positivity and enthusiasm rub off onto spectators, who take over for her when she goes to play her singles match at the No. 5 spot. Penn senior co-captain Shubha Srinivasan appreciates the support from the stands and the sidelines. "It is so inspiring and motivating to hear your teammates cheer for you," Srinivasan said. "It encourages you to play at a higher level." Srinivasan also partially attributes Brown's defeat to what she described as negative energy coming from the Bears' side. Once the Brown players had lost a few sets in singles, their teammates compounded their disappointment with disparaging comments from the sideline. The Quakers, on the other hand, never faced a situation that might have undercut their confidence last weekend, and therefore conveniently only had positive commentary to give. Each of the top five singles spots in the Yale (4-4, 0-1 Ivy League) match were won by Penn in two sets. And against Brown (6-9, 0-2), the Quakers won five of the six singles' matches in straight sets. At No. 1, freshman Sanela Kunovac shut down Yale junior Andrea Goldberg -- her competition on Friday -- 6-1, 6-0. Kunovac followed that match with an almost-identical win the next day, knocking out Brown senior Heather Young, 6-1, 6-1. Penn freshman Nicole Ptak, playing at No. 2, met similar success this weekend. Ptak beat Yale freshman Margaret Purcell, 6-4, 6-4, on Friday and Brown freshman Bridget Barbera on Saturday, 6-1, 6-3. Against Brown, only junior Louani Bascara (No. 4) had a third set to deal with. Bascara won her match in a tie-breaker. However, according to Kunovac, the competition both days was stiffer than the scores imply. "We made it look easy," Kunovac said. "But we shifted into an extra gear when we really needed to." Srinivasan agreed. "They came out fighting in singles," she said. "But we never gave them a chance to come back in any match." The Quakers also made sure to give themselves a bit of leeway in singles this weekend by fighting hard in doubles. As of this year, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association changed the rules of how the doubles matches in women's tennis are scored for the match overall. It used to be that each doubles win was one point for the team. Now, however, a team has to win 2-of-3 or all three doubles matches to receive one point. Against both the Elis and the Bears, the Quakers won the doubles point, which gave them room for a loss or two in singles. No such room was needed this weekend, but according to Penn assistant coach Robert Levy, it never hurts to have that cushion from doubles. Penn returns to action next weekend with matches against Harvard and Dartmouth.

W. Tennis decimates Princeton

(04/03/01 9:00am)

Every Penn athlete relishes a victory over Princeton, if not just for the win, then for that well-known intangible pleasure of seeing the Red and Blue dominate the Orange and Black. The Penn women's tennis team (10-6, 1-0 Ivy League) tasted that particular brand of success on Friday, when it defeated the Tigers (2-6, 0-1), 6-1, in its first Ivy League match of the season. "We destroyed them," Penn senior captain Shubha Srinivasan said. Though the win was not a complete surprise -- the Quakers had triumphed, 4-3, over the Tigers at last fall's ECACs -- the fact that the Penn squad swept all but the No. 6 singles portion of the match was more than either the players or Penn coach Mike Dowd could have predicted. Srinivasan attributes the win to her team's intensity before the match. "We worked so hard the entire semester," Srinivasan said. "We had a clear goal to win in the Ivy League." Srinivasan's 6-0, 6-1 stomping of Princeton's Kristi Watson at the No. 3 spot epitomized the Red and Blue's focus for the entire afternoon. "I was so psyched up and motivated," she said. "I probably played my best match of the season." Srinivasan's doubles partner, junior Louani Bascara, stressed how important focus and intensity were to both her own 6-3, 6-3 win at the No. 4 singles spot and her team's win. "I haven't been so into a match for a long time," Bascara said, describing her inability to even speak to teammate Jolene Sloat on the way to Friday's match because both were so focused on playing. The atmosphere at the Levy Tennis Pavilion complemented the Penn squad's enthusiasm. Spectators, family and friends went wild over every point scored, as Penn freshmen Nicole Ptak and Sanela Kunovac surged to finish their match at the No. 2 doubles spot with an 8-5 win. Noting Ptak's serves, spectator David Ferreira, a freshman, was proud of his hallmate's game. "She's not just good, she's awesome," Ferreira said. Fan support, along with that of Robert Levy, a volunteer assistant coach responsible for the presence of the Levy Tennis Pavilion, meant a lot to the Quakers, who haven't enjoyed many crowds at their matches so far this season. "When we saw all the fans, it was just hard to lose," Ptak said. Perhaps because of the amount of emotional and physical energy expended on Friday, the Quakers were unable to defeat Virginia Commonwealth (9-5) in their match on Saturday. Penn lost to the Rams, 6-1, to bring its overall record to 10-6. "It's just not the same mindset in an Ivy match as opposed to a non-conference match," Bascara said. Bascara did not play on Saturday due to a sprained ankle from an injury sustained over spring break. Nevertheless, the Quakers were able to force the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 singles matches to three sets apiece against a Virginia Commonwealth squad ranked No. 53 in the nation. And, more importantly, the Quakers got a win they had worked for since the first team meeting of the season to began their Ivy season with a victory.

W. Tennis faces tough pair at home

(03/30/01 10:00am)

Even a torrential downpour today couldn't douse the intensity of the Penn women's tennis team as it prepares to face its biggest rival -- Princeton. After having beaten the Tigers last fall in the ECAC championships, the Quakers (9-5, 0-0 Ivy League) are feeling the pressure to repeat the performance in today's 2 p.m. home match. The Princeton (2-4, 0-0) match will be Penn's first Ivy League competition of the season. Penn coach Mike Dowd isn't worried about beginning the Ivy season with the Quakers' rival. He feels that his team is more than prepared for the challenge it is about to face. "The work is done -- all the sprints, all the training, all the team talks," Dowd said. "We just need to put it out on the court." To get the team focused for the upcoming match during Wednesday's team meeting, Dowd emphasized Penn's accomplishments so far this season. He reminded his players of their best moments and encouraged them to put themselves in the same frame of mind that vaulted them over Princeton in the ECACs. "You need to remember how you felt, and play like that on Friday," Dowd said. Penn No. 4 Louani Bascara is impatient for the match to start. "All our work in practice since we stepped on the courts the first day has been for the Ivy season," she said. Having just returned from a team dinner last night, the tone of the junior's voice emanated self-assurance. "We're all pretty relaxed at this point," she said. "We're all confident down the line-up." But the Quakers aren't confident that they know who exactly their Tigers opponents will be today. Though Princeton beat Rutgers on Wednesday with Kristi Watson at No. 1, she may not be matched up against Penn's No. 1, freshman Sanela Kunovac, this afternoon. After today's match against Princeton, the Quakers will have to gear up all over again to host an equally tough Virginia Commonwealth team at noon tomorrow. The Rams are currently ranked No. 53 in the nation, and their No. 1 player, Martina Nedelkova, is ranked No. 4 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Kunovac will have her work cut out for her tomorrow against this top-ranked player, but confidence abounds in the Quakers' camp regardless of the stats of the competition. "They're coming to our house," Dowd said. "We want to slash them."

W. Tennis sweeps weekend contests

(03/26/01 10:00am)

If a tennis team glides to two easy victories in one weekend, and no one is there to see it, did it really happen? The Penn women's tennis team certainly thinks so, and despite the lack of fan support at Levy Tennis Pavilion on Saturday, it maintained enough intensity to roll over Seton Hall, 6-1, on Friday and American University, 5-2, on Saturday. The wins were no surprise to the Quakers, but they served as a nice change of pace from Penn's three-match losing streak over spring break. Penn junior Rochelle Raiss attributed the Quakers' wins this weekend to a team that has come together both on and off of the court. "We're a very close team this year," Raiss said. "We all get along a lot better than last year and we love the new freshmen." Raiss, who plays No. 1 doubles, has been paired with each of the three freshmen on the squad this year. Her current partner is freshman Rachel Shweky. Together they fought to bring home a relatively easy 8-5 win versus the Pirates, and an extremely narrow 9-8 loss to the Eagles. This weekend, however, was the first time Shweky and Raiss were paired together at No. 1, and according to Raiss they were still getting used to one another in Saturday's match against American. Nevertheless, the Quakers had two stellar matches, with only two singles losses overall. Unfortunately, the victories were rather lonely ones given the lack of spectators on both days. Junior co-captain Jolene Sloat said that she hopes attendance will improve on Friday when Penn plays its first Ivy match of the season. Having the matches outside should also help with publicity, but the wind this past weekend was not cooperative, forcing both matches inside Levy Pavilion. Luckily, the location of the match was irrelevant to freshman Sanela Kunovac, who competed at the No. 1 singles spot. Her win against Seton Hall's Kyli Lassalle was trying at the beginning, but Kunovac found her way to victory, 7-6, 6-0. "As the match went on I got into my groove," Kunovac said. "After the first set it was more or less cruising." Her groove apparently carried over to Saturday. Kunovac handily beat American's Irina Bovina, 6-2, 6-0. Penn freshman Nicole Ptak played at the No. 2 singles spot both days. She won a hard-fought, 6-4, 6-4, match versus the Eagles, but lost on Friday to Pirate freshman Kim Barfuss, 7-6, 6-4. Ptak considers the competition between herself and Barfuss to be primarily psychological, due to a shared past together. Barfuss and Ptak had previously competed four times before meeting again this weekend. "She's won more times than I have," Ptak said, speaking of her previous matches against Barfuss. "So she likes playing me."

Different paths, same goal

(03/09/01 10:00am)

Sanela Kunovac, Nicole Ptak and Rachel Shweky have little in common -- except for the fact that all three are freshman starters on the Penn women's tennis team. Kunovac is Penn's No. 1 singles player, and Ptak is right behind her as the Quakers' No. 2. Shweky, meanwhile, plays No. 6 singles and No. 1 doubles. "Being able to start in a lineup as a freshman is huge," Penn junior captain Jolene Sloat said. "They are adapting so well to the pressure." Though all three may be adjusting similarly, their backgrounds couldn't be more different. Kunovac came to the United States five years ago as a refugee from Bosnia. She quickly assimilated to life in America, both athletically and academically. Kunovac captured the 1999-2000 Florida high school state tennis championship before graduating as valedictorian of Bradenton Academy (Fla.) last June. When Kunovac called Penn coach Mike Dowd in response to his recruitment letter, he was determined to have her play for the Quakers. "I put on the charm and was in Florida watching her play a week later," Dowd said. "I thought, this is a player. This girl could really come in and do some damage." Kunovac attributes her athletic prowess to her parents' support. "My parents have given me everything they could to give me choices in life," she said. "They are my backbone." Dowd believes that Kunovac's parents are only part of the reason why Kunovac has become such a dynamic tennis player since starting the sport at age six. "She has been on tennis courts all over the world," Dowd said. "There is very little fear there. That confidence makes her as tough as she is." "Any time you work with her," Sloat added, "you know you're going to get a great workout." Although she hasn't travelled as far or played for as long as Kunovac, Ptak has been an equally impressive addition to the Quakers. Soon after she applied early to Penn, Ptak shot up into the top-16 in the national rankings. Ptak's ascent compelled a host of Division I schools to offer her scholarships, but fortunately for Penn, she had already committed. Though she was voted best female athlete four years in a row at her high school in Great Neck, N.Y., Ptak was not serious about tennis until she was 15. According to Dowd, to get to the Division I collegiate level of tennis, it is typical to start playing at age seven or eight. Ptak has fostered her own love of tennis, however, since she committed herself to the sport only three years ago. "The reason I got good is because I pushed myself and [my parents] didn't push me at all," Ptak said. Having also started late in tennis, Sloat respects Ptak's determination. "Nicole is the most aggressive [of the three]," Sloat said. Still, aggressiveness probably defines all three of Penn's freshmen -- including Brooklyn, N.Y., native Shweky. Shweky, who has proved herself to be an essential asset to the team on both the doubles and singles courts, is the third in a series of atypical recruiting scenarios for Penn. Two summers ago, Dowd happened to be at an Intercollegiate Tennis Association tournament at Georgetown where Shweky was the only high school player competing. After seeing her play, Dowd pursued Shweky, and she consequently applied early to Penn. "Rachel was not recruited as much as she could have been because she had stopped doing the junior tournaments," Dowd said. Like Kunovac, Shweky attributes her success in tennis to parental support. "My parents have stuck by my side, and had faith in my game, and have told me to do my talking with my racket," Shweky said. No matter what team she's playing for, she also takes her membership seriously. "I have always been known for keeping the team together and keeping everyone with a positive perspective," she said. It will be the role of all three of these freshmen -- who comprise half of Penn's singles lineup -- to keep the team together. "One of the reasons why these three are successful is because they don't like to lose," Dowd said. After contemplating for a minute, he marveled, "I've never had three freshmen start in the line-up before." After losing its top two singles players to graduation, Penn seemed due for a rebuilding season. But with the solid play of the Quakers' trio of newcomers, it has become apparent that the Red and Blue have a shot at winning the Ivy League title. And if it's the dedication of Penn's freshmen that will make or break the team's season, then the Quakers have good reason to feel confident. "I could have had the worst day of my life," Kunovac said. "But for the hour or two everyday on the court, everything goes away -- it's just me and the tennis ball. It's just natural."

Disappointing end for M. Swimming

(03/05/01 10:00am)

The Penn men's swimming team's performance this weekend at West Point, N.Y., was disappointing in comparison to an otherwise impressive season. The Quakers placed ninth out of 10 teams at the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League Championships with 488 points. Only a few stellar performances by the Red and Blue stood out over the course of the three-day meet that began last Thursday. Freshman Andrew Trout placed sixth, the highest finish by any Penn swimmer at the meet, in the 50-yard freestyle. "When I get a chance to taper, I take advantage of it," Trout said, accounting for his success. "But I was expecting to swim a lot faster at champs." The Quakers also finished high in Friday's 400-yard medley relay, coming in fourth place out of 10. Trout, along with sophomores Kevin Pope, Chris Miller and Spencer Driscoll surpassed all but powerhouses Harvard, Princeton and Brown in what was Penn's highest relay finish at Easterns since 1997. Pope, Trout and Driscoll were the only Quakers to make finals rounds, the cut off for which is eighth place. Trout was seventh in the 200 butterfly and Pope finished eighth in the 100 backstroke. Penn's seniors accumulated 180 points at last year's Easterns -- a total that the Quakers had difficulty making up for this year. Penn coach Mike Schnur had hoped for the freshmen to pick up the slack, but their efforts fell a little short. "It's difficult to step up as a freshman and compete with guys two and three years older," Schnur said. As for his squad's failure to beat teams such as Army, Navy, Columbia and Cornell, which the Red and Blue outscored in the regular dual-meet season, Schnur noted the unique pressures that champs presents. "The championship meet is not about how good the team is," Schnur said. "We have a lot of good swimmers, but at champs, we need to have five great swimmers." According to Schnur, Penn will have an advantage next year, when its squad is more experienced and the incoming freshmen have filled out the team's range of ability. "The freshmen have shown that they will be a force to be reckoned with next year," Schnur said. And in response to his team's failure to live up to their own expectations for this meet, Schnur voiced a respect for the bigger picture. "I'm not a guy who believes you judge your season by the last meet," he said. Penn junior captain Ian Bowman, though disappointed with his team's performance, saw the ninth-place finish as an impetus for the Quakers to work harder in the future and learn from the challenge. "The finish leaves a sour taste in our mouths," Bowman said. "But it makes us hungry for next year."

Young M. Swimming heads to EISLs

(02/28/01 10:00am)

The Penn men's swimming team heads up to West Point today for the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League championships. And the pressure is on to live up to expectations from what has thus far been an impressive 2000-01 season. The Quakers have come a long way since last year's Easterns, when they finished ninth out of 10 teams, beating only perennially struggling Dartmouth. This season, Penn topped both Columbia and Army, teams that underestimated the Quakers' talent and depth before their meets started. But perhaps Penn's greatest triumph was its victory over Cornell in the Quakers' first dual meet of the season. The Big Red walked out of last year's championships regaling the Penn squad with taunts and jeers. None of the Penn swimmers who were there forgot the incident, making this fall's win particularly poignant. The Red and Blue will face a significant disadvantage this weekend, however, as the depth of talent the squad has depended on all season won't be a factor. "It's a funny meet," Penn coach Mike Schnur said. "It's all about quality and having your best people swim fast." Penn will also be the youngest team at the meet, with only two seniors and three juniors competing. Though having 12 out of 17 underclassman swimmers confers a future advantage in terms of the experience the squad will have gained, the competition from well-schooled upperclassmen at West Point will be a high hurdle to overcome. The Quakers are aware of these challenges, as well as the opportunity they have to set in stone the respect they have gained this season. "Last year I didn't have a good meet and I want to turn that around," Penn sophomore Chris Miller said. Miller, who will be swimming both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke this weekend, is confident in his ability to live up to his talent. "I plan on doing best times by over two seconds each in both events," Miller said. "I told myself in the beginning of the year that I wasn't going to accept losing anymore. I have worked hard in practice and hopefully it will show." Senior captain Brian Barone is the only member of the Quakers' EISL team who was also there as a freshman three seasons ago. "We got last place my freshman year," Barone said. "It is good to be able to return at the flipside of my college swimming career and go head to head with these teams." Penn junior Russ Zuckerman shares Barone's sentiments. A Wisconsin transfer, he is looking forward to his first EISL championship. "We want to show everybody in the conference that we're for real," Zuckerman said. "A lot of teams can do well throughout the season but it is the end of the year that distinguishes us." Schnur agreed that his swimmers will have to be in top form in order for Penn to mark its presence this weekend. "We're bringing the 17 best on the team and we need everyone to score points," Schnur said. "This meet is gravy for a great dual meet season."

M. Swimming falls to Crimson

(02/20/01 10:00am)

In the words of Penn coach Mike Schnur, the Penn men's swimming team was "whupped" by Harvard on Saturday. The Quakers, though, were not whupped as badly as last year. Penn lost to the Crimson in Sheerr Pool, 195-86, but it was a 64-point improvement for the Quakers from last year's score of 227-54. The loss dropped the Quakers to 5-4 in the Eastern Collegiate Swimming League and 9-4 overall. The atmosphere at Sheerr Pool during the meet was subdued. The crowd had anticipated the Quakers' fate long before they arrived at Gimbel Gymnasium, and the Penn fans watched with resignation as Harvard's swimmers took first place in 14 of the meet's 15 events. The Crimson are currently ranked 19th in the nation by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. Harvard, Princeton and Yale all have swimmers that are ranked first in the country in their events. "Harvard will win [Eastern] Championships," Schnur said. "We didn't even see the best that they have this weekend. They brought their B-squad." For the Penn squad, this meet was essentially an opportunity for its swimmers to get better seed times for EISLs. They achieved what they set out to accomplish. Penn sophomore Nate Pinney brought home second in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:44.35, his best-ever unshaved time, and in the process grabbed himself the fourth spot on Penn's 800-yard freestyle relay team for EISLs. Penn freshman Adam Smith, who came in third in the 400 IM with a time of 4:13.77, improved his seed time for Easterns by 10 seconds. According to Schnur, he will get a chance to "swim with the big boys" as a result. Penn senior captain Brian Barone swam the 200 fly, which used to be his premier event, after having not done a fly set in training for a month. He nabbed second place for one of only five second-place performances Penn had on the day. The other second-place finishes for the Red and Blue were in the 500 freestyle by freshman Shaun Lehrer, the 200 backstroke by freshman Barry Chan and the 100 backstroke by sophomore Kevin Pope. The highlight of the day for the Quakers, however, was undoubtedly sophomore Chris Miller's first-place finish in the 100 breaststroke. With a time of 58.97, the Glen Head, N.Y., native beat Harvard freshman John Lin by .08 seconds. Miller, who had not rested for the meet, turned in Penn's only first-place finish of the meet. "The point was to show some class and some character -- everybody really did and our times really speak to that," Barone said. Swimming against the Crimson two weeks before the EISLchampionships, however, is not ideal. "This is not a meet to get fired up for,"Schnur said. "Next year [Princeton] coach [Tim] Murphy and I are moving this meet back a week because no one can get up for a meet within a few weeks of championships." The Penn squad's sprinters have already started their tapers, and its distance swimmers are about to start theirs. Their focus is on Easterns, and none of the Quakers who qualified had the luxury of shaving for the Harvard meet. And because the Crimson brought their B-squad, many of whom are not going on to championships, some of their swimmers had shaved, giving them a distinct advantage. When it came down to it, Penn had accepted its fate before the meet even started. "Harvard doesn't have deadweight on its team and everyone on it could be an asset to Penn," Barone said. "We're a long way from being able to go head to head with them." Schnur echoed Barone's sentiments. "Right now, Ivy swimming is the best and the fastest it has ever been," he said. Schnur's statement refers to the league leaders, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. It also refers, though, to the Quakers, who have not seen a season record of 9-4 in recent memory.

M. Swimming preps for Crimson battle

(02/15/01 10:00am)

As the season winds down, there is only one hurdle left to clear for the Penn men's swimming team before the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League championships -- Harvard. On Saturday at 1 p.m., the Quakers will face the Crimson at Sheerr Pool in their last home meet of the 2001 regular season. The Harvard squad is currently 7-1 in the league and is ranked No. 22 in the country. It won the Eastern championships last year, and squashed the Red and Blue in their February meet, 227-54. At 7-3 for the 2001 season, Penn coach Mike Schnur expects to be 7-4 at the end of the day on Saturday. But Schnur is focusing on Easterns, not on Harvard. "My philosophy is, first semester is about dual meets, second semester is about championships," Schnur said. "We know going in what Harvard has done all year. This is a good opportunity to compete against great swimmers." Most of the Quakers share Schnur's relaxed attitude about this weekend's meet. Penn freshman Shaun Lehrer, a distance swimmer, is not apprehensive about the ferocity of the Crimson competition. "For us there is no pressure, because Harvard is [No.] 22 in the nation and we just don't have the same talent," Lehrer said. "They are under pressure not to lose." Penn senior Kevin Treco sees the meet as an opportunity for everyone on the team to focus on himself as an individual, instead of worrying about the team's performance. "It's a chance to get some seed times to get a better place at championships," Treco said. Lehrer, senior captain Brian Barone and sophomore Nate Pinney have all beaten personal best times either shaved or unshaved this season. They are ultimately looking for their hard work to pay off at Easterns. A loss against Harvard will not define the Red and Blue's season, although a win surely would. For the Quakers, the intensity of fighting to the end but losing to Brown in close 155-143 fashion or the feeling of satisfaction after beating Navy for the first time in 10 years are the moments that have made this season meaningful. How hard the Penn squad swims on Saturday will matter, however, to the record board on the wall at Sheerr Pool, and will stand as a testament to how hard the team has worked this season. The team is aware that there is a challenge to face this weekend. "Some of these records on the wall are old and some are ready to come down," Lehrer said. For Lehrer -- who beat his best shaved time in the 1,000-yard freestyle by seven seconds, unshaved, against Navy (9:33.62) -- facing the Crimson's talent is an opportunity to put his own name on the wall. So, besides showing Schnur where his swimmers are in terms of their tapers for the championships, the meet against Harvard this weekend has the potential to show the Quakers how far they've come. Their current record of 7-4 is one better than last year. At the rate the Penn squad is training and bringing in impressive recruits, an even better record is well within sight for 2002.