PHILADELPHIA - The Quakers take their perfect 8-0 record out to California next week to play three matches against some of the toughest competition they have faced this year, including a pair of matches versus nationally ranked teams.
Just like last year, the Quakers find themselves ranked for the first time all season in the ITA polls the week heading into spring break. Penn is now ranked 71st in the country, compared to 68th last year, which was the only time the team made an appearance in the polls.
Last Time Out
The Red and Blue are coming off a tough 5-2 victory over UMBC last Saturday. Penn got the early lead after sweeping all three doubles matches for the fourth consecutive match. Senior Hicham Laalej dominated at No. 1 winning 6-2, 6-4 and freshman Zach Katz was solid at No. 6, 6-4, 6-4. Even though Penn was up 3-1 in the team score, the remaining three singles matches could have gone either way for both teams as all of them came down to the wire.
Junior Phil Law, playing at No. 2 for the first time this season, lost the first set and was trailing in the second set. Down 3-5 and double match points, Law fought back and took the second set in a tiebreaker. Meanwhile, one court over, freshman Nikola Kocovic was battling in a third set. As Law's tiebreak concluded, Kocovic triumphed 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, sealing the win for the Quakers. With Penn already victorious, Law eventually prevailed against his opponent in a deciding super-tiebreaker, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 10-8.
About the Quakers
The victory gave Kocovic his 14th of the 2010-11 season, which leads the Quakers. Law is just behind him with 13 wins overall. At No. 1 singles, Laalej is 6-0 in dual matches this spring. Laalej plus junior Jason Lin and freshman Ivan Turudic need just one more victory to get into double digits as all three of them have nine total wins on the season. The freshman duo of Turudic and Katz are undefeated at No. 2 doubles, 3-0, and have an impressive 15-2 record overall. The other two doubles combinations, Laalej and sophomore Mark Milbrandt and Kocovic and senior Zach Gorn are both 4-0 this spring, at No. 1 and No. 3 respectively.
Scouting the Broncos
Penn's first match out west will be against No. 59 Santa Clara on Monday, the highest ranked team Penn will compete against on the trip. The Broncos hold a 7-4 record going into the weekend, with all four losses coming to nationally ranked teams, including then No. 8 Stanford. Sophomore Tom Pham currently has a six-game winning streak, leading the team with eight victories in dual matches this spring, and is 10-2 overall. In addition, Santa Clara is undefeated in all of its four home matches this season. The Broncos will host Nevada on Saturday before taking on Penn on Monday.
Scouting the Tigers
Pacific is the one team Penn will face in California that is currently not ranked. That being said, the Tigers were ranked as high as 74th earlier this season. They are 4-5 overall, with one of those wins being a 6-1 victory over San Francisco, the final opponent that Penn will play later in the week. Pacific enters the weekend on a three-game winning streak and will also host Nevada a couple of days before meeting with Penn on Tuesday.
Scouting the Dons
The Quakers will conclude the spring break trip versus No. 65 San Francisco. Entering the weekend, the Dons are 4-4 overall. Last time out, they were blanked 7-0 by then No. 19 Washington. San Francisco will host University of Louisiana, Lafayette earlier in the week before battling with Penn on Thursday.
The Quakers play Santa Clara Monday at 3 p.m., Pacific Tuesday at 1 p.m., and San Francisco Thursday at 1 p.m. All times are pacific standard time.