It still might be cold outside, but the Hecht Tennis Center — the indoor home of Penn men’s and women’s tennis — is heating up.
Penn women’s tennis (7-8) won its second-straight match with a decisive victory over St. John’s (10-4). The team has played very well at home – it hasn’t lost since returning from a tough spring break trip and is 5-2 at Hecht over the past two months.
Similarly, the men’s team (11-9) has enjoyed playing in front of its fans and supporters. The Quakers have won eight straight home matches, going undefeated in Philadelphia since their first match of the season. The seventh and eighth victories in this streak came on Sunday, when Penn took down Temple (9-6) and Binghamton (3-13) in back-to-back meets.
The weekend began on Saturday, and the women’s team came out firing, easily winning two of the three doubles matches to secure the first point of the meet, behind strong play from no. 3 doubles junior Marta Kowalska and freshman Marija Curnic, who won a 6-2 victory to improve their record to 6-1 this spring.
The Quakers also came out strong in singles, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after a few early victories. The most dramatic part of the meet, however, came with the victory already in hand. Singles no. 1 senior Ria Vaidya barely lost a hard fought battle against St. John’s no.1 and #88 ranked Jessica Livianu. The fiery match between the two talented players came down to the wire – after winning the first set, Vaidya barely lost the second 7-6 after a close tiebreak. They then played a ten-point tiebreak to decide the match, in which Livianu got the edge over her Penn rival.
According to Penn women’s tennis coach Sanela Kunovac, in these heated, close matches, a key to victory is staying focused and not letting emotions get the best of you. This is something she thinks Vaidya, along with the rest of the team, does particularly well.
A similar theme rang true during the back-to-back meets played by the men’s team on Sunday.
According to Penn men’s head coach David Gaetz and assistant coach David Dilucia, emotions played a big role in singles no. 1 senior Nicholai Westergaard gutting out a close victory over Temple’s top singles player.
Westergaard started the match on a tear, easily winning the first set 6-0. However, the second set proved a more difficult challenge, as an early lead turned into a neck-in-neck battle that eventually had to be decided by a tiebreak. Despite the minor lapse, Westergaard pulled out the victory in the second set, winning the match.
Four more singles wins, along with a 3-0 record in doubles, led the Quakers to an easy 6-1 victory over their city rivals. Next came the match against Binghamton. Despite exerting substantial effort in their morning meet against Temple, Penn brought much of the same in the second meet of the day, winning the meet 6-1 as well to notch their eighth straight win at Hecht.
Both teams have suffered injuries, illnesses, and early losses, but now that rosters are close to full strength and Ivy play is upon them, both of these teams have significant momentum to dominate their conference rivals. And expectations, as they should be, are high.