No. 1 Virginia kicks off 2017 against Vanderbilt, No. 14 Kentucky, Louisville
The Cavaliers look to continue recent success
The No. 1 Virginia men’s tennis team will commence its 2017 campaign with a busy weekend — playing three matches against three different opponents in three-straight days.
The two-time defending national champions will begin their regular season with a match against Vanderbilt Friday, followed by a match against No. 15 Kentucky Saturday and concluding with a conference match against Louisville Sunday.
Coach Brian Boland said the Cavaliers are ready to get back on to the courts.
“They’ve been preparing for a long time,” Boland said. “They had an unbelievable summer, and they worked hard throughout the fall … we couldn’t be more excited to start [the season] on Friday.”
Boland said the quality of the team’s practices has been very high. The players have embraced the program’s lofty standards and have taken it upon themselves to make sure that every one of them is prepared to work hard in practice.
“The standard is incredibly high [and] these guys hold each other accountable in the way that they go about their business day in and day out,” Boland said. “If you come to practice ill- prepared, you really stick out … they’ve really bought into the system and the culture.”
Boland added that these practices have produced a lot of high-quality tennis in addition to improvement.
“They do nothing but make each other better every day,” Boland said. “Some of the best sets that I see all year are right here in practice.”
One difference that’s been evident in practice this offseason is the reduced size of Virginia’s team. The Cavaliers only have nine players on the roster this year — eight of which are eligible, with freshman Ammar Alhogbani taking a redshirt year.
“I definitely think it’s different … last year and the year before that, we had a bunch of success, but this year, we probably have the smallest team Brian’s ever had in his career here at Virginia,” senior Luca Corinteli said.
Corinteli said Virginia has been able to use the smaller roster size to its advantage.
“I also think that there’s an advantage that comes with [the small size], just because I feel like this group is really, really close and there’s a lot of things that go on in practice that are a lot more manageable now since there’s less guys on the team,” Corinteli said.
Virginia is coming into the season with sky-high expectations as the reigning two-time national champions and the preseason No. 1.
“I think they’ve done a pretty good job managing [the expectations],” Boland said. “You need to embrace that to be great, so we can’t really avoid it.”
To continue to be recognized as the nation’s top team, the Cavaliers need to remain hungry and focused, Boland said.
“I always tell the guys that we want to be [first] all the time,” Boland said. “We want to be the best every single day.”
However, Boland understands that the season is just beginning and that there is a lot of work to be done. In order to accomplish the goals that they have, the Cavaliers will need to continue to work.
“It’s a long season — there’s a lot of work to do,” Boland said. “We got to stay healthy, keep working hard and coming together as a team … so far we’re off to a great start.”
Virginia will play Vanderbilt (6-2, 0-0 SEC) Friday in Nashville Tenn., No. 14 Kentucky (5-1, 0-0 SEC) Saturday in Lexington, Ky., and then Louisville (2-1, 0-0 ACC) Sunday in Louisville, Ky.