No. 6 women's tennis punishes Panthers, Irish
Virginia moves to 6-1 in ACC play
The No. 6 Virginia women’s tennis team won both of their conference matches this weekend, improving to 6-1 in ACC play. After the Cavaliers defeated No. 22 Notre Dame, they welcomed new rival Pittsburgh to Charlottesville for the first time. Virginia then shut out the Panthers to complete the weekend sweep.
Friday’s game against the Fighting Irish (8-8, 2-6 ACC) marked just the third outdoor match of the season for the Cavaliers (12-5, 6-1 ACC). The recent weather in Charlottesville has forced the team to practice indoors, which made the dual with Notre Dame particularly difficult.
“The reality is we need a lot more outdoor time,” coach Mark Guilbeau said. “We didn’t play outside last week and that’s why today was another challenge.”
Notre Dame struck first in doubles when the No. 19 team of senior Britney Sanders and sophomore Quinn Gleason upset ninth-ranked sophomore Julia Elbaba and freshman Rachel Pierson 8-1. After a Cavalier victory on the second court, the doubles point rested on the match at No. 3. Sophomores Danielle Collins and Maci Epstein clinched the point with an 8-4 victory against freshmen Jane Fennelly and Monica Robinson.
Virginia came out strong in singles play, winning five of their six matches. Hot off her doubles victory, Epstein earned the first singles point defeating freshman Mary Closs 6-4, 6-1. Sophomore Stephanie Nauta followed suit at No. 3 with victory against senior Jennifer Kellner. Collins was able to clinch the win for Virginia, defeating Gleason 6-4, 6-2.
The remaining three matches all required three sets to determine a winner. After losing to Robinson 6-7 (3-7) in an intense first set, Pierson battled back to claim to next two sets 6-1, 10-4. Elbaba also added a point with a victory against Sanders. The sole loss came at No. 6 when senior Li Xi fell 6-3, 3-6, 11-9.
After falling to No. 34 Boston College, Pittsburgh travelled to Charlottesville to face the Cavaliers for the first time as a member of the ACC. Though the Panthers were a new challenge for Virginia, they came with a familiar face in former Cavalier player and volunteer assistant coach Emily Fraser. Fraser’s return to Charlottesville made for particularly exciting match for both coaches and players.
“She’s a really good friend of ours,” Nauta said. “I think it just pumped us up to beat her.”
Due to rainy weather, Fraser and the Panthers met the Cavaliers at Boar’s Head Sports Club where Virginia swept the Panthers 7-0. The victory marked the Cavalier’s second complete shutout this season.
Virginia went to work early, capturing the doubles point when senior Caryssa Peretz and freshman Marie Faure battled senior Jocelyn Lu and junior Molly Wickman to pull off a 8-7, 7-4 victory. Collins and Epstein easily handled junior Amanda Wickman and freshman Lolade Ogungbesan at No. 1 court while Nauta and Pierson had a 7-6 advantage when the match was abandoned.
The bottom courts performed well for the Cavaliers in singles, giving them a 3-0 lead when Epstein and Faure earned 6-1, 6-1 victories at No. 4 and No. 6. Nauta then clinched the victory for Virginia against senior Taylor Washington. With the 6-2, 6-1 win, the sophomore continued her strong play for the Cavaliers and improved to 12-1 in singles.
“[Nauta] makes a ton of balls and that doesn’t seem to vary from day to day,” Guilbeau said. “Some kids had good days and bad days, she makes a ton of balls every day.”
Peretz brought the score to 5-0 with a 6-0, 6-2 victory against senior Kimmy Borza on No. 5. Playing at top court, Collins defeated Notre Dame’s sole ranked player, No. 86 freshman Audrey Ann Blakely. Pierson capped off the shutout with a tough 6-3, 6-4 victory against Ogungbesan.
Though the Cavaliers alternated between playing indoors and outdoors during the weekend, they have been able to transition smoothly from one court to another.
“It’s not the easiest to switch back and forth, but we all have a pretty set mindset,” Nauta said. “We’re able to handle obstacles so I think we handled it really well.”
Virginia will continue conference play Saturday at 12 p.m. in Blacksburg to take on rival Virginia Tech.