A hot start. It’s something that tons of teams strive for every year.
And with an undefeated record, two players who haven’t lost a singles match yet, and a doubles pairing who have won every game they’ve played, No. 48 Penn State has certainly started off its season with a bang.
The Nittany Lions will square off against West Virginia (1-5) on Saturday before taking on No. 49 Virginia Commonwealth (9-3) on Sunday, with the hopes of continuing their hot start to the season.
“We’re up 7-0 right now and we need to keep it going,” junior Marie-Frederique Bedard said. “And we have some tough competition this weekend, so we want to come out strong like we have all year.”
VCU in particular represents a strong challenge to the Lions’ unbeaten run so far. The Rams have only lost to ranked teams, including No. 1 North Carolina.
It also seems a bit of a rivalry is brewing between the two teams, as the Lions played a spirited match last season against the Rams.
“We beat them at their place last year,” Penn State head coach Dawna Denny said. “They’re a good team. Sunday is going to be rowdy. A little extra competition never hurt anybody though.”
VCU’s toughness aside, the undefeated start for the Lions is a strong statement, and something that’s been helped by great play from junior Chelsea Utting and freshman Jaqueline Zuhse, who have won every singles match they’ve played and sport records of 7-0 and 6-0, respectively.
“JZ and Chels, not to take away anything away from anyone else, but their records speak for themselves,” Denny said. “They’ve overcome some challenging matches too, which I think is important and something I want to see us moving towards.”
And of course, the team still has senior Petra Januskova. The Penn State Student-Athlete of the Week is now ranked 36th individually in the country and has earned a 6-1 record so far in singles play.
“I had one rough week, but I think I’m back in form,” Januskova said. “We just got to continue to stay competitive and stay loud, especially this weekend.”
Junior Carmen Sandor and freshman Devan McCluskey have also been a huge reason for the Lions’ start. The duo owns a 4-0 record in doubles play, a point that can often represent a huge boost to a team’s overall score during a match.
“Everyone’s been playing well, but we’re not perfect by any means,” Denny said. “We’ve had some shaky matches, but I think our development has been strong and will continue to be strong as we progress through the season.”