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W Tennis: Cavs host FSU, Miami for Senior Weekend

Formidable foes from Florida pose final test before postseason

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The No. 17 Virginia women’s tennis team will look to end its regular season on a high note this weekend when two ranked opponents come to Charlottesville. The Cavaliers face off against No. 32 Florida State Saturday before closing the regular season by attempting to derail No. 10 Miami.

After stumbling out of the gates, Virginia (14-8, 7-2 ACC) has enjoyed nothing but stellar performances in the latter half of the season. The Cavaliers began the season 2-6, but have dropped only two matches — both 4-3 decisions to top 15 opponents — since taking the crown at the Blue/Gray Classic in mid-March.

Coming off of a 1-1 weekend which included a victory against talented No. 23 Georgia Tech and a 4-3 loss to No. 13 Clemson that snapped the team’s six-game win streak, Virginia remains positive and confident entering this weekend.

“It’s always tough when you lose 4-3; to be honest, it hurts more than losing 7-0,” coach Mark Guilbeau said. “But, I hope that they realize that on the road, they played extremely well against two teams and earned a great victory and certainly didn’t hurt our level in how we played Sunday.”

What has made the Cavaliers’ current hot streak so impressive is that they have squared off against nine top-75 opponents and emerged victorious against seven of them — including No. 1 North Carolina in a 4-3 upset in Chapel Hill. The players hope this experience against elite opponents carries them through this weekend and into the postseason.

“We’re pretty resilient with everything we’ve gone through,” senior Erin Vierra said. “We’re just looking to end on a high note and carry some momentum into postseason play.”

Florida State (12-7, 4-4 ACC) has had a similarly tough schedule to this point and is reeling from a two-loss weekend against No. 11 Duke and North Carolina. Talented sophomore Daneika Borthwick leads the Seminoles in singles as the 57th ranked player in the nation, with veteran senior Francesca Segarelli following her at No. 118. These two talented individual athletes comprise the Seminoles’ top doubles pairing.

Virginia will have to fight hard to win the doubles point for the ninth consecutive match, as doubles represent one of Florida State’s strengths. Last weekend, the Seminoles swept all three doubles matches against both Duke and North Carolina. Throughout the season, however, Virginia has routinely risen to the occasion in similarly daunting circumstances.

“When you face real adversity, you find out what the kids are made of,” Guilbeau said. “They’ve certainly shown that they buckle down instead of using it as an excuse or backing away, and I’m really proud of that.”

Miami (16-4, 7-2 ACC) has matched Virginia’s scorching form the last few weeks, having claimed 10 of its last 11 contests. The Hurricanes also played North Carolina and Duke last weekend, except they were able to shut the Blue Devils out 4-0 after a 5-2 defeat to the Tar Heels.

Like Virginia, Miami is a deep team with several ranked players. Standout freshmen Stephanie Wagner and Kelsey Laurente headline the roster, with the two boasting No. 53 and No. 85 singles rankings, respectively. A highlight of the weekend will be the clashes between these two young stars and Virginia’s own lethal freshmen — No. 12 Julia Elbaba and No. 77 Stephanie Nauta.

“[Miami] is a tough team that we always have good battles against,” Guilbeau said. “But, the bottom line is that this is each team’s last regular season contest. There is a lot to gain from this match.”

Senior Weekend festivities should supply extra motivation for the Cavaliers. Prior to the match, Maria Fuccillo, Hana Tomljanovic, Vierra and several staff members will be honored for their contributions to the program. Among this senior class’s numerous accolades and accomplishments, they provided integral contributions to the most successful season in Virginia history last year when the team won 20 matches, seven ACC matches, cracked the top 10 rankings nationally and reached the NCAA Round of 16.

“I’m really excited for this weekend,” Vierra said. “It’s going to be nice to have most of my family be there. We also have really great fans, and I feel very honored to get to play in front of them one last time.”

Virginia begins play at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Snyder Tennis Courts.


Published April 18, 2013 in Sports







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