PHILADELPHIA After a 2006 season that saw the Penn women’s tennis team go 6-1 in the Ivy League and earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, hopes were high for the 2007 season. And the Quakers did not disappoint.
The Red and Blue had a strong lineup returning from a successful 2006 season. The squad was anchored by first-team All-Ivy juniors Yulia Rivelis and Julia Koulbitskaya. The co-captains were also joined by a cast of newcomers who were looking to make an impact right away. Freshman Ekaterina Kosminskaya, sophomore Lenka Snajdrova and junior transfer Charlotte Tansill all had their eyes on starting spots from the beginning.
The Quakers started the season with a four-match winning streak, beating opponents from Penn State, Richmond, Marshall and East Tennessee State. With those four wins, Penn achieved its highest national rank of the season, hitting No. 36 on Feb. 13. The Red and Blue’s first loss of the season came to VCU, a team that was ranked 14th in the nation at the time. That same afternoon, however, Penn bounced back with a 5-0 win over Georgetown, and a few days later, beat Maryland 5-2 to head into its spring break trip with a 6-1 record.
The Quakers started their California tour in Irvine, where they took on UC Irvine’s No. 35-ranked squad. They lost 5-2, and followed that up with another 5-2 loss to No. 40 Long Beach State. But Penn recovered from its first (and only) back-to-back losses of the season to win the San Diego Invitation with victories over the University of San Francisco, the University of San Diego, and No. 53 St. Mary’s College of California.
The Quakers had two more matches back on the east coast before their Ivy season began. A 7-0 loss to No. 15 William and Mary would be their last loss of the regular season. Penn rebounded with a 5-2 win over Old Dominion, heading into the Ivy slate on a positive note.
Penn opened the Ancient Eight season with perhaps its toughest Ivy opponent of the year, rival Princeton. The Quakers used the home court advantage to gain momentum over the Tigers, clinching a 5-2 win. That perfection wasn’t going anywhere; the Red and Blue continued their domination of the league the following weekend, beating Yale 5-2 and Brown by a commanding 7-0. The Quakers continued their success with a sweep of defending champion Harvard and Dartmouth, shutting out both teams, 7-0. On April 20, the team clinched at least a share of the Ivy title with its 6-1win over Cornell. With one match left against Columbia, the title was Penn’s to lose. The Quakers made sure that didn’t happen, as they beat Columbia by a commanding score of 7-0 to clinch the 2007 Ivy League championship with an undefeated record.
With the Ivy title came a postseason bid for Penn, the fifth time in seven years that the Quakers participated in the NCAA Championship. On May 10, the Red and Blue learned that their first round opponent would be No. 20 Wake Forest, at host institution William and Mary. So the Quakers packed their bags and headed south, hoping to echo last year’s upset win over Tennessee in the first round of the tournament.
An upset seemed within Penn’s reach right from the start. The Quakers took an early lead in the match, winning the doubles point. The first match to finish was the No. 1 doubles pair of Yulia Rivelis and Maria Anismova, who lost to Ana Jerman and Sasha Kulikova, 8-0. Wake’s advantage disappeared quickly, as junior Charlotte Tansill and sophomore Amanda Avedissian dominated their No. 3 match against Ashlee Davis and Jenna Loeb, winning 8-3.
The doubles point came down to the No. 2 match, where Lenka Snajdrova and Julia Koulbitskaya were battling it out with Sierra Poske and Christine Simpson. Koulbitskaya and Snajdrova had one of the best matches of the day, as they fought hard to come back and win the match, earning Penn the doubles point. Down 6-3 early in the match, the Quakers battled back, and kept it close, 6-5. Then, with the Deacons up 7-5, they kept fighting at match point to tie it at 7-7, then at 8-8, to force the tiebreaker. Koulbitskaya and Snajdrova stayed strong, winning the tiebreak 7-4, to take the match 9-8 (4). It was the longest match of the day, clocking in at an hour and 40 minutes, which took a toll on all four players in the 90 degree heat. Unfortunately, the Demon Deacons took over in singles, winning four of the six matches, and sending the Quakers home with a 4-1 loss.
But Penn’s season was not quite over: the freshman doubles pair of Maria Anisimova and Ekaterina Kosminskaya became the first doubles pair in Penn women’s tennis history to be selected for the NCAA tournament. The young Penn duo earned their spot in the tournament via an automatic qualification. The NCAA awards bids to any conference with one or more doubles team ranked in the ITA Top 60. Anisimova and Kosminskaya finished the season with a No. 59 ranking, the only team in the Ivy League good enough to qualify.
And in the first round of the tournament, the pair added to their historical achievement, as they became the first pair in Penn tennis history to win a match in the tournament, with their 6-4, 6-4 upset victory over LSU’s No. 30-ranked pair of Megan Falcon and Hannah Robinson.
The Cinderella story ended in the Round of 16, where Anisimova and Kosminskaya lost to Vanderbilt’s No. 8-ranked pair of Amanda Fish and Amanda Taylor, 6-2, 6-1.
The Ivy League Champion Quakers had three first-team All-Ivy selections, out of six possible spots. Freshman Kosminskaya was unanimously voted both Player and Rookie of the year, only the third time in league history that a player has garnered both honors, and the second time in Quaker tennis history (Sanela Konovac in 2001). Kosminskaya went unbeaten at No. 1 singles in Ivy play this year, winning all seven matches without dropping a set. She was 16-3 on the season, with all three losses coming to ranked opponents.
She was joined on the first team by the two junior captains, Rivelis a unanimous selection and Koulbitskaya. The three were a combined 19-1 in Ivy League play this season, leading a strong Red and Blue squad to a 7-0 Ivy season, finishing with a title, a 17-4 overall record, a No. 51 national ranking, and an NCAA tournament berth.
Kosminskaya was the only player to earn first-team honors in both singles and doubles, as she and sophomore Snajdrova were unanimously selected first-team All-Ivy for doubles. They went 6-0 in their Ivy season this spring.
Another standout for the Quakers was sophomore Lauren Sadaka, who was voted the team’s Most Improved Player. Sadaka finished the season with a perfect 15-0 record in singles, playing mostly in the Nos. 5 and 6 spots.