Road tests await No. 17 women's tennis

Riding five-match streak, Cavaliers face No. 19 Georgia Tech, No. 14 Clemson

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The red hot No. 17 Virginia women’s tennis team will look to extend its five-match winning streak this weekend when it heads south for a pair of challenging road competitions. The Cavaliers will be in Atlanta Saturday looking to knock off No. 19 Georgia Tech before traveling to South Carolina the following day to face No. 14 Clemson.

Virginia (13-7, 6-1 ACC) has won 10 of its last 11 matches after struggling early in the season. The only loss during the stretch came in a tight 4-3 decision against a talented No. 9 Duke squad. The Cavaliers boast victories against several top opponents, including a thrilling triumph over the nation’s first-ranked team, North Carolina.

“We’re all pretty confident at this point,” senior Hana Tomljanovic said. “Individually we all play well. Our doubles have improved and we’re all doing a good job in singles, so hopefully we can keep that up.”

But Georgia Tech (10-7, 4-3 ACC) is on a streak of its own and has won four of its past five matches. The Yellow Jackets field strong doubles teams that has the 57th-ranked pair in the country in the freshmen duo of Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard. In addition, Georgia Tech is led by talented senior Elizabeth Kilborn, who is ranked No. 89 in singles play.

“This is a team that has a good spirit and competitive edge to them,” coach Mark Guilbeau said. “I feel really good, though, about what our kids are doing. I think we match up really well against them.”

Although Georgia Tech unquestionably boasts a strong doubles lineup, Virginia has finally settled into its pairs and has developed consistency in recent weeks. The Cavaliers have earned the doubles point in every match of their current streak.

Georgia Tech has a stellar 8-3 record at home this season. Although the long bus ride could impact Virginia, the team’s early season schedule should ensure they are ready come Saturday. The Cavaliers have played a mere five home matches, excluding the ITA National Team Indoors held at Boar’s Head Country Club to begin the season.

“Our kids have shown that they don’t mind getting on the road,” Guilbeau said. “They carry the spirit of their fans with them and do a good job, so I feel great about it.”

The following day, Clemson (10-6, 5-2 ACC) will host Virginia. The Tigers are on a hot streak of their own, winning six of their past seven matches. The only loss during the run came in a 4-3 defeat to No. 1 North Carolina, and Clemson is coming off a dominant 4-1 win against No. 9 Duke on April 7.

Clemson’s roster is scattered with stellar athletes, and the team has three players ranked in the top 50 for singles play. The Tigers’ top-ranked player is standout sophomore Yana Koroleva, who is ranked No. 16 nationally. She will face Virginia star No. 15 freshman Julia Elbaba in a highly anticipated matchup.

Virginia’s depth and confidence are peaking at the right time, with just four matches remaining in the regular season. The entire Cavalier lineup — from Elbaba at the No. 1 spot to junior Caryssa Peretz at No. 6 — is brimming with confidence, and each Cavalier has earned points in the last two weeks.

The only major item of concern for the Cavaliers are late season injuries. Virginia is already without standout freshman Maci Epstein due to an ankle injury, and last weekend Tomljanovic partially pulled a hamstring. The injuries are likely the result of the rigors of a long season, as Virginia has played six times in the past two weeks alone.

“We’ve been smart as coaches to know where and when to get after it a little bit more,” Guilbeau said. “The players allow us to know when we should turn that clock off by communicating very well. Overall, I think we’re in very good shape relatively speaking, so we should be fine moving forward.”

This weekend’s competition will begin Saturday at noon with first serve against Georgia Tech.


Published April 11, 2013 in FP test, Sports

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