PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania women's tennis team is headed north for the final weekend of the regular season with Ivy League title hopes on the line. Penn will first take on No. 44 Dartmouth on Saturday, April 22 at 1 p.m., before venturing to face No. 49 Harvard on Sunday, April 23 at 1 p.m.
After starting 0-2 in the Ivy League just two weeks ago, the hope of a title looked bleak at best, but having won three matches in a row, Penn is right back in the thick of things and firmly in the hunt for the trophy. Entering the weekend's contests, the Quakers (10-8, 3-2 Ivy) currently sit one game out of first place among the Ancient Eight with two matches remaining for each squad. The Red and Blue began their comeback efforts with a 4-3 victory over Cornell on the road before returning home to take down Brown and Yale, both by scores of 5-2. The final stretch of matches will arguably be the most difficult for Penn, with Dartmouth and Harvard boasting ITA top-50 rankings.
Senior Kana Daniel is currently ranked 105th in singles by the ITA, serving as the only player in the Ivy League ranked in the top-120. Daniel dominated her last time out, breezing to a 6-0, 6-0 win against Yale's Carol Finke. Daniel has teamed with sophomore OJ Singh in doubles, and the pair have settled into an impressive groove with three-straight wins at the top court. Penn owns a 6-1 record this season when winning the doubles point.
Sophomore Marta Kowalska and freshman Ashley Zhu have been key to Penn's resurgence of late, as both lead the way with 12 dual match victories in singles each this spring. Kowalska has been a stable force for the Quakers at the six-spot in singles, and is currently riding a three-match individual win streak to match that of the team. Zhu has won four-straight singles matches, including two three-set triumphs.
Junior Ria Vaidya owns a 3-2 mark in singles in Ivy League play, including winning the clinching match at the No. 2 spot against Cornell on the road. Lina Qostal went undefeated over the weekend against Brown and Yale, stealing two three-set wins at the No. 4 position. Freshman Sarah Dreyfuss has been a welcome addition to the Quakers in conference play, returning from injury to collect two wins in singles play.
Dartmouth has led the Ivy League in the rankings for the majority of the season after starting the year with a 12-2 record heading into conference action. The competitive nature of league play has taken a toll on the Big Green, as Dartmouth began Ivy League play 1-2 with a victory over Yale and losses to Harvard and Brown, but they have since rebounded with a weekend sweep over Cornell and Columbia. Dartmouth now sits equal with Penn in the standings with a 3-2 record. The Quakers lead the all-time series over the Big Green 23-15. It has been a back-and-forth series over the past years, with each team gaining wins six times in the last 12 matches. Senior Taylor Ng leads the way at No. 1 singles, while pairing with Kristina Mathis at the top doubles spot. Last season, Penn took down Dartmouth in Philadelphia by a score of 5-2 with wins on five singles courts.
The Crimson of Harvard sit tied with Princeton atop the league with a 4-1 record entering the weekend, with both squads set to battle each other prior to Penn's match in Cambridge on Sunday. Harvard boasts an overall record of 16-7 on the season and had won four-straight league matches prior to a 4-3 setback at Cornell last time out to tighten the race for the championship. Each of Harvard's five conference contests have been decided by margins of 4-3. Penn trails in the overall series with the Crimson by a margin of 11-28, however the Quakers have held the upper hand of late, winners of two-straight against Harvard and three of the last five. Last season, the Red and Blue battled from a 3-1 deficit at home to upend the Crimson by a score of 4-3. June Lee has excelled for Harvard this spring, with a team-leading 17 dual match victories, mostly at the No. 2 spot, including four wins in Ivy League play. Erica Oosterhout leads the Crimson at No. 1 singles, while the duo of Oosterhout and Lee typically team up in doubles at the top spot.