Virginia women's tennis readies for ITA Kickoff Weekend Event
Cavaliers host No. 19 LSU, Ole Miss, Wake Forest with implications for nationals
The Virginia women’s tennis team is getting ready for the ITA Kickoff Weekend Event after beating ACC opponent Boston College 4-3 in its season opener last weekend.
“It’s really exciting,” junior Cassie Mercer said. “We’ve been working all fall and over Christmas break, so it’s nice to finally start playing some matches and get to compete since that’s what we’ve been training for.”
Coach Mark Guilbeau said the win helps set the tone for the season, especially because of the youth of his team and the strength of the ACC this year.
“It’s very important ... really just from a mindset perspective for the young ladies — especially having a very young team, and especially because Boston College is a stronger team than maybe a lot of people realize,” Guilbeau said. “Our conference is obviously very, very deep and it was an important win.”
To start off the ITA Kickoff Weekend, No. 19 LSU will play Wake Forest Saturday at 10 a.m., and the Cavaliers (1-0, 1-0 ACC) will take on Ole Miss (2-0, 0-0 SEC) at 1:30 p.m. A consolation match will take place the next day at 10 a.m., followed by a match between the winners of Saturday’s matches at 1:30 p.m.
The Cavaliers know that they are in for a tough match Saturday against an Ole Miss team that has started the season off strong, winning its first two matches.
“I would say [it is] an equally tough match [to Boston College], if not even tougher,” Guilbeau said. “They have a good bit of experience, their top players are a young lady that played pretty far into the NCAA divisional tournament last year, very strong ... [and] they come out of one of the best tennis conferences in the country: the SEC.”
However, Guilbeau said the tournament being held indoors could be advantageous for the Cavaliers and that they must capitalize on the opportunity.
“I think [Ole Miss] is a bit more accustomed to outdoor tennis, so [I am] really trying to have our team understand that if we can really implement some of the strategies that help on an indoor court — which is a little bit faster, a little more offense — then maybe that can be an advantage,” Guilbeau said.
Now that the season is officially underway, the Cavaliers have begun to spend more practice time devoted to match play, in addition to working on their games individually.
“I think ... we’ve been doing a lot of match play and working on specific things that we see that we are doing well and also need to improve on in the matches,” Mercer said. “But I think at this point, it’s just doing a lot of the same stuff that we’ll have to do in the matches and just getting a few things better from last weekend.”
With the winner of the meet earning a spot at the ITA National Team Indoors, there is a lot on the line this weekend for all four teams that are competing. However, the Cavaliers know they cannot focus on anything besides playing Ole Miss.
“We only play one team, and that’s Ole Miss.We don’t play anyone else Saturday,” Guilbeau said. “These young ladies have shown good discipline, good focus, good organization and most importantly, a hunger to be in the moment, play one match at a time and give it everything we got.”
Mercer also said Ole Miss will make for good competition.
“I know [Ole Miss] is a really good team, so I’m sure it’ll be a good match,” Mercer said. “I’m just excited to play.”
The action will commence this Saturday at the Boar’s Head Sports Club.