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Men drop league opener, women stay hot against Penn

Men lose first match to Penn since 2007

Princeton travelled to Penn this weekend hoping to snag an easy victory in its Ivy League opener against the only league team not ranked in the ITA top 75. What the Tigers (10-8 overall, 0-1 Ivy League) encountered was an inspired group of Quakers (5-9, 1-0) fighting for every point. When the dust settled, it was No. 56 Princeton on the receiving end of a 4-1 smackdown.

“Penn played an inspired match and I credit them for playing well,” said head coach Billy Pate. “It was a disappointing outcome for us but we simply played not to lose. We’ll learn from this and I expect we’ll have a sense of urgency to get back on the courts this week and right the ship against Yale and Brown.”

The match started out poorly for Princeton, losing the doubles points after 8-5 and 8-6 losses at positions one and two. The team’s doubles play recently has mirrored its overall results: The Tigers have taken one doubles point in the last five matches and won just one of those contests. Seniors Augie Bloom and Dan Davies started out 8-2 in doubles but have lost four straight. Only the freshman duo of Joshua Yablon and Thomas Coulatti have stayed hot with a 10-5 record this dual match season.

Junior Zack McCourt ended a four-match losing streak with his three-set victory over Penn’s Nikola Kocovic in the first slot. McCourt had an impressive run prior to that in which he defeated two ranked players, including No. 52 Florian Lakat of Mississippi State. He obtained a ranking of 108, before losing it after a tough match against Penn State’s No. 50 Leonard Stakhovsky.

“It’s my first win in nearly a month, but as bad as that sounds on paper, it hasn’t felt so bad,” said McCourt. “The losses have been mostly three setters and it was a brutal academic stretch for me. I really wanted to win this league opener and end the streak.”

When asked about the ranked players he will face in the coming weeks, McCourt replied, “I know if I show up and play my best I can beat anybody. Rankings don’t mean anything. I’m performance, not outcome, oriented.”

Freshman Alex Day and Davies could not figure out their respective Quakers at four and five. They only managed seven games apiece in two set losses. Bloom had a chance to make it a match in the sixth position when he forced a third set. It was the first match in three weeks for the veteran, and he couldn’t quite pull out the win, falling 6-4 in the final set to Penn’s Marshall Sharp.

Penn clinched the meeting before Coulatti and Yablon could finish their matches at two and three. Coulatti was up 4-3 in the final set and Yablon was tied at 5-5 in the second after losing the first. The Tigers are hoping the sun shines down upon them literally and figuratively and that they can vanquish No. 68 Yale when the Bulldogs visit Lenz Tennis Center next Saturday.

“This loss might be a blessing in disguise,” said McCourt. “If we adopt Penn’s attitude, we can hopefully beat teams that we usually wouldn’t be able to beat. There are lessons to be learned, but in no way does this jeopardize our goals.”

Women open league play with convincing 5-2 victory over Penn

Princeton extended a pair of win streaks with its victory over Penn at Jadwin Gymnasium this Saturday. The Tigers (12-5 overall, 1-0 Ivy League) have now won four straight matches this season and six straight over the Quakers (7-5, 0-1). The No. 66  team in the country has lost just two of its last 11 contests and has the second best record in the league.

“We knew it would be a tough match and that Penn would come out firing,” junior Lindsay Graff said. “We brought more energy and had a big breakthrough in genuine support of each other. Caroline [Joyce] won her singles match and got everyone going.”

The women, like the men, have struggled recently in doubles. Penn easily took the first and third slots to drop Princeton to 2-4 in doubles over the last three weeks. The women, however, have been able to fall back on a strong singles lineup that has won nearly two thirds of its matches this season. That dominance was on full display Saturday as four Tigers dispatched their foes in straight sets. A particularly impressive performance was turned in by freshman Alanna Wolff, No. 84 in the latest ITA rankings. Playing in the fourth position despite being Princeton’s only ranked player, Wolff laid a 6-1, 6-1 beating on Penn’s Jaime Yapp-Shing. She has played back in the lineup all season, usually at number three, and has compiled a 7-2 record, losing only in tiebreakers. This was also Wolff’s first match in a month after overcoming a back injury.

Sonya Latycheva gave the Quakers their only point with a 7-6, 6-2 win over sophomore Emily Hahn. Graff won the marathon match of the meeting, outlasting Sol Eskenazi 11-9 in the third set and avenging the tiebreak loss she suffered in the second set. Graff has put together a sterling 12-4 record, even playing at the top position. However, she has only beaten unranked opponents this season and, accordingly, has not been rewarded with an ITA ranking.

The team’s performance has been remarkably correlated to that of its number one slot. Princeton has lost every time Graff has lost and has won all but one of the times she has won. All of its losses have come to ranked opponents and all of its wins have come against unranked opponents. While consistency is generally a good quality, the Tigers will have to show that they can beat the best teams if they are to compete in a conference with three other top 75 squads. A huge test awaits in New Haven next Saturday when Princeton visits No. 52 Yale.

“We know those teams will be formidable, but we’re taking it one match at a time” said Graff. “We try not to worry about what they’re doing and how they’re playing. It’s a different level of play in the Ivy League season, but we rose to a new level yesterday.”

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