PHILADELPHIA - When the University of Pennsylvania women's tennis lost its first two Ivy League matches, it looked like its chances of claiming its first title since 2007 were bleak. But after three straight wins and some help from a very competitive conference, the Quakers are two wins away from a share of the Ivy League Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. It won't be an easy road with No. 63 Cornell coming to Philadelphia on Friday, followed by a trip to New York City for a potential Ivy League Championship-deciding match with No. 34 Columbia.
Then again, nothing has come easy in the Ivy League this season. Penn has had three of its five decided by a single point, winning two of them. The other two are 5-2 results in which the Quakers are 1-1. With wins over No. 63 Harvard and No. 52 Dartmouth last weekend, the Quakers confidence should be at an all-time high.
Last Saturday the Crimson came to Hecht Tennis Center and departed with a 4-3 loss. Things got dicey for the Quakers during singles play when they fell behind 3-1. However, Penn would not be denied as Lina Qostal won in two sets, 6-3 and 6-2, Kana Daniel breezed past her opponent 6-4 and 6-2, setting up standout freshman Marta Kowalska for the three-set match clinching win. Kowalska won the first set 6-4, but suffered a 6-2 loss in set two, leading to a dramatic 7-5 win in the third to clinch the match.
Penn used five singles matches on Sunday against Dartmouth to take home its third Ivy win. Sonya Latycheva, OJ Singh, Ria Vaidya, Daniel, and Kowalska were all victorious and set the Quakers up for a run at the title this weekend.
SCOUTING CORNELL: Heading to the City of Brotherly Love on Friday afternoon, the Big Red also have a shot at winning the Ivy League with two wins this weekend. They'll need to get past the Quakers and the Princeton on Sunday back in Ithaca and then hope Columbia loses one of its final two matches. Cornell is 3-2 in Ancient Eight play with losses to Columbia and Dartmouth. Overall, the Big Red are 14-7 and hold the 63rd spot in the ITA. With one more victory, Cornell will set a program record for wins in a season and with two they'll have their first five-win Ivy season since 1996.
THE SERIES WITH CORNELL: Penn is 33-5 overall versus the Big Red. The Quakers have won 16 of its last 18 matchups with Cornell, including a 4-3 victory last season in Ithaca.
SCOUTING COLUMBIA: As the lone one-loss team in the conference, No. 34 Columbia sits in first place in the Ivy League. The Lions have played three straight matches decided by one point, falling to Yale, 4-3 last Saturday. They'll close out their season with a trip to Princeton on Friday before they host the Quakers on Sunday. Columbia won the 2016 ECAC Indoor Tennis Championship back in February with wins over Yale, Dartmouth, and Harvard.
THE SERIES WITH COLUMBIA: Penn leads the overall series with the Lions 26-5. Four of Columbia’s five victories have come in the last six meetings between the two schools, but the Quakers defeated the Lions 5-2 to finish off their season last year.
SAYING GOODBYE TO SONYA: Friday's match against Cornell will be Senior Day for the Quakers, bidding farewell to their only senior, Sonya Latycheva. Coming to Penn in 2012 from Toronto, Latycheva has been named All-Ivy twice in doubles and has an excellent shot at a third with a 13-3 record this season with partner Kana Daniel. Coming into the weekend, she is 77-31 in doubles play in her career and boasts an additional 47 wins by herself on court.
BIG WEEK, BIG MOVE: After last weekend's wins over ranked opponents, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) named the Quakers the #OracleITARankings Big Mover of the Week, going from 74th to No. 52. Penn's ranking is its highest of the season.