In the midst of a stellar season-opening run, the No. 9 Virginia women's tennis team goes up against a field loaded with many of the nation's best teams this weekend in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. The tournament features 16 teams, including five from the ACC and two which the Cavaliers have already defeated this season.
After crushing Boston College Sunday, the Cavaliers (5-0, 2-0 ACC) look to build on the confidence gained from those wins as they take on No. 12 Northwestern in the first round today. The Cavaliers have already beaten four nationally ranked teams this season. Those triumphs include wins against fellow National Team Indoors contenders Texas and Tennessee.
The Cavaliers have started strong in all aspects this season and come into the weekend after three consecutive 7-0 victories, including a pair against ACC rivals Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Virginia's opponents failed to take a set from them in each of those matches, and the team is beginning to feel the momentum building behind them.
"Momentum is a great thing, but it'll be another step up in competition this weekend," coach Mark Guilbeau said. "It's nothing but exciting, and a great challenge for our kids."
The focus now shifts to Northwestern (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten), a team expected to test Virginia's winning streak. The Wildcats come into the weekend off a tough loss to No. 3 Duke but have otherwise been strong, even scoring an upset against No. 8 North Carolina during the same trip.
No. 26 Northwestern singles player junior Kate Turvy - who helped her team earn consecutive National Indoors titles in 2009 and 2010 - is 4-1 this season and leads the team at first singles. Not to be outdone, No. 29 Virginia senior Emily Fraser sports her own undefeated record on the top singles court including a commanding 6-2, 6-1 victory in her last outing against Boston College freshman Jessica Wacnik.
The Cavaliers surprised the Wildcats with a 4-0 victory on the final day of last year's National Indoors, and Guilbeau is doing his best to make sure history repeats itself.
"I've been on the computer checking out my scouting reports from last year, from right after the matches," Guilbeau said.
Guilbeau said Virginia can topple Northwestern for a second consecutive year by tinkering with match-ups and focusing on what worked and what did not. The tournament's fixed lineups mean no surprises await in the match-ups each player will see.
"You start preparing your players for those specific game styles and really impose your strengths on their weaknesses," Guilbeau said. "Not all kids buy into that right away, but this team is really buying in and applying it."
The team knows Northwestern will be out for revenge after last year's defeat and, as the seventh seed in the tournament, the Cavaliers will have bigger targets on their backs than last year.
"We're getting ready for a battle," senior Lindsey Hardenbergh said. "We know they're going to be ready for us, and [they] want to beat us as much as we want to beat them. I feel really confident, and we're a much better team than we were last year."
With a win, the Cavaliers would advance to play either ACC rival No. 13 Georgia Tech or second-seeded No. 4 UCLA, and the players are confident they have what it takes to make a deep run in the tournament.
"This is the strongest team we've had," Hardenbergh said. "We work the hardest day in and day out. I have the full confidence that we'll continue playing at our best ability."\nThe action starts with a pair of matches at 9 a.m. today and continues until the championship game Monday. The Cavaliers take the court at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Boar's Head Sports Complex.