The University of Pennsylvania women's tennis team provided many exciting moments in 2004-05 as the Red and Blue were across the net from nationally ranked opponents throughout the non-League schedule. The Quakers wrapped up the season with a No. 57 national ranking and finished the season with an overall record of 11-6 and a 5-2 mark in League play. The Red and Blue finished second in the Ancient Eight standings and closed out Ivy competition with three-consecutive victories.
The season began with the fall tournament schedule, the first of which was the Cissie Leary Invitational, held on the Lott Tennis Courts and at the Levy Tennis Pavilion. The semifinals of the singles draw of the tournament consisted of three Penn players, with Raluca Ciochina falling to teammate Julia Koulbitskaya, 6-3, 7-5. Yulia Rivelis was also a semifinalist, falling to the eventual winner, Ramona But of Maryland. It was the first collegiate appearance for both Rivelis and Koulbitskaya.
Four Quakers then traveled to California to compete at the Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships Qualifier. Rivelis and Koulbitskaya continued their early season success with wins in the first round of competition before falling to tough opponents. Fellow freshman Michelle Mitchell was defeated in the first round, but it was senior Shelah Chao who sparkled for the Red and Blue, advancing to the third round of competition before being eliminated. At the Women’s College Tennis Invitational at the National Tennis Center the next week, Rivelis and Koulbitskaya both had strong showings in the “A” singles flight while both Chao and Ciochina advanced to the third round of the “B” flight. Numerous other Quakers competed in the remaining three singles flights. The freshmen also got to show their stuff in doubles play, as the seventh-ranked team of Koulbitskaya and Mitchell advanced to the semifinals of the “A” doubles flight.
For the second time on the season, the Quakers played host to some of the best tennis players in the east as the ITA Eastern Regional came to Philadelphia. The Red and Blue proved to be good hosts, as Koulbitskaya advanced to the semifinals before falling to No. 50 Courtney Bergman of Harvard, 6-0, 7-5. Rivelis also advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Susanna Lingman of Harvard, the No. 6 seed in the tournament. In doubles action, the team of Koulbitskaya and Mitchell advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to the No. 2 seeded team to close out the fall campaign.
The Quakers started the spring off with a bang, taking on No. 12. The Red and Blue fell to the Hurricanes, 7-0. Penn bounced back, however, winning its next three matches to improve to 3-1. The Quakers notched wins at Penn State, 5-2, and at Virginia, 4-3, before returning to Philadelphia for two matches. The Red and Blue opened up its home spring campaign with a 5-2 victory over Virginia Commonwealth. This was followed by a tough, 4-3, loss to Maryland.
It was then time to head west, as the Red and Blue traveled to California and Nevada for spring break. The Quakers went 2-2 on the trip, with 5-2 victories over UC Irvine and Long Beach State, while suffering losses against William and Mary, 6-1, and UNLV, 5-2. Penn then returned to Philadelphia for four straight home matches. The Quakers opened the home stand with a 7-0 defeat of cross-town foe Temple before starting Ivy League play. Penn fell in its League opener to Princeton, 5-2, before bouncing back to defeat Yale, 5-2, and Brown, 6-1. The Red and Blue then squared off against Harvard, falling to the eventual Ivy League champion Crimson, 7-0. To close out the Ancient Eight season, Penn defeated three-straight opponents to finish alone in second place in the League standings. The Quakers felled Dartmouth, 5-2, Cornell, 6-1, and Columbia, 5-2, to close out the season.
Three Quakers earned All-Ivy honors at the conclusion of the season. Rivelis earned first-team All-Ivy honors for singles while the team of Chao and Koulbitskaya were named to the first-team for doubles. Koulbitskaya pulled double duty when the awards were voted on as she was also named second-team All-Ivy for singles.
For Chao, it was the second-consecutive first-team All-Ivy doubles honor of her career. The Medford, N.J. native was also named second-team All-Ivy doubles in 2003. Teamed with Koulbitskaya this season, the two held an overall spring mark of 6-6 at the No. 1 position, as well as compiling a 4-3 record in Ivy League play. The tri-captain also had a 17-11 overall singles mark on the season, including a 5-2 record against Ivy League opponents.
For Koulbitskaya and Rivelis, the success that the two saw in the fall season carried over into the spring. The two switched off playing Nos. 1 and 2 singles, with Rivelis picking up a 17-14 overall singles mark and a 3-4 mark at No. 1 against Ancient Eight competition. She also played doubles, going 7-7 on the season. Rivelis also teamed with Mitchell to go 2-0 in doubles action during League play.
Koulbitskaya finished her first collegiate season with a 17-13 overall singles mark and a 13-12 doubles mark. She was ranked No. 84 in the nation after the fall season and moved up to No. 81 to open the spring. Her spring success included an 8-11 singles mark.
Other bright spots for the Quakers included the play of the doubles tandem of Caroline Stanislawski and tri-captain Kate Williams. The duo had an 11-5 record during the spring season, including racking up five wins against Ancient Eight opponents. The two also had wins over opponents from Penn State and Virginia in the spring. Stanislawski also shined in singles action, going 11-8 overall. She had four-consecutive singles victories during the spring season, with wins over UC Irvine and Long Beach State. She also went 5-1 in Ancient Eight play.
Another senior who wrapped up her Penn career on a high note was Williams. She compiled a 12-3 overall singles record and had a 7-1 spring mark, including six wins against Ancient Eight foes. She also had a 13-7 overall doubles record, including her mark with Stanislawski.
Not to be outdone by her classmates, Mitchell compiled an 11-9 singles record in her first season wearing the Red and Blue. She was 8-8 in the spring, which included a 2-4 mark against League competition. In addition to her doubles success with Koulbitskaya in the fall, Mitchell teamed up with Ciochina and Rivelis to go 9-0 in the spring, with a 4-3 Ivy record.
While the four seniors on the Quakers roster will be sorely missed, a strong corps of returning letterwinners and young talent should continue to keep the Red and Blue challenging for the top of the Ivy League in the years to come.
Written by Jennifer Hildebrand, athletic communications assistant