W Tennis closes season with victories

No. 17 Cavaliers beat No. 32 FSU, No. 10 Miami for 9-2 conference record


The No. 17 Virginia women’s tennis team ended its regular season on a high note this weekend, earning two victories against a pair of quality ACC opponents. The Cavaliers shut out No. 32 Florida State Saturday and beat No. 10 Miami 4-1 Sunday.

Florida State (13-8, 5-6 ACC) came to Charlottesville looking to bounce back from a tough stretch in which they lost three of four matches. Virginia (16-8, 9-2 ACC), however, only added to the Seminoles’ woes, cruising to a 4-0 victory. The win marked the first time in school history that the Cavaliers have reached the eight-win mark in ACC play.

“It wasn’t easy, especially after our first loss in a while [against Clemson April 14],” coach Mark Guilbeau said. “It’s a great sign for our team that, after we lost, we’re just as hungry and get better the next time we play.”

Virginia again set the tone for the match with a doubles victory as its top two pairs took care of business. The dynamic duo of senior Hana Tomljanovic and freshman Julia Elbaba sealed the point for the Cavaliers, outlasting the talented tandem of sophomore Mia Vriens and senior Amy Sargeant by a score of 9-7.

“The way we came out in doubles really helped us to pour it on in singles,” Tomljanovic said.

Virginia wasted no time in singles play to extend its lead. Tomljanovic handily won her first set 6-3 before her opponent retired to put Virginia ahead 2-0. Soon after, Cavalier junior Li Xi won in straight sets against the 110th ranked Sargeant at No. 4.

When No. 12 Elbaba finished off 57th-ranked Seminole sophomore Daneika Borthwick 6-2, 0-6, 6-3, Virginia secured a new record for conference victories in a season. The matches that went unfinished were also firmly controlled by Virginia.

“We were really anticipating a 4-3 match from this team, so to get that done 4-0 was huge for us,” Guilbeau said. “I know we stopped the match, but it really was heading in the direction of potentially a 7-0. It was an awesome day.”

The confident Cavaliers played host to a dangerous Miami (17-5, 8-3) team the following day. Prior to the match, seniors Maria Fuccillo, Erin Vierra and Tomljanovic were honored for their contributions to the program. This class of Cavaliers helped to make Virginia an elite program not only in the ACC, but nationally as well. In the past four years, Virginia set a new record for most victories in a season and cracked the top-10 nationally for the first time ever.

“It’s hard to put words on this one,” Guilbeau said. “You can see it. I’m so happy for the kids because you could see this was the highest level of emotion they’ve played with all year. All three of our seniors were involved in this win, so it couldn’t be a better day.”

With emotions running high, the Cavaliers were bested in doubles play by the Hurricanes. Miami’s No. 2 pairing of junior Melissa Bolivar and freshman Kelsey Laurente clinched the doubles point for the Hurricanes, defeating Virginia’s pair of Elbaba and Tomljanovic by a score of 8-4. Miami also won the No. 3 match, making Vierra and star freshman Stephanie Nauta’s victory at No. 1 a moot point. The doubles loss was the Cavaliers’ first in 10 matches.

Virginia came out swinging in the singles, however, knowing they had little margin for error. Virginia junior Caryssa Peretz quickly tied the match at 1-1 with a dominant 6-3, 6-1 win against Hurricane freshman Deborah Suarez at No. 6. The Cavaliers then left it up to their top guns to complete the comeback. The top three for Virginia — Elbaba, Nauta and Tomljanovic — each won their first set by a score of 7-5 and followed it up with a swift second set clincher.

“After the Florida State match, we talked as a team about having to keep the same mindset for Miami,” Tomljanovic said. “While doubles was a little bit rough today, I think we got that mindset back and showed it in singles.”

Tomljanovic, who turned 22 Sunday, had the most closely contested match of the three. Clementina Riobueno took her to 7-5 in the second set as well, but when the Hurricane freshman was unable to get to Tomljanovic’s drop shot to seal the match, the entire Snyder Tennis Center erupted in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for the senior.

“Today is a great day,” Tomljanovic said. “We’ve never beaten Miami in my four years here and beating them today on Senior Day, on my birthday, is just amazing. Right now, words can’t describe how happy I am.”

The Cavaliers’ successful weekend earned them the No. 4 seed and a first round bye in the upcoming ACC tournament, which begins Friday in North Carolina.

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