After dropping two tough matches against North Carolina opponents last weekend, the No. 12 Virginia women's tennis team now faces two more. And this time, they must do so with a key player sidelined.
The Cavaliers (12-4, 3-2 ACC) travel this weekend to N.C. State and Wake Forest with two 4-3 losses to No. 3 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina fresh in their minds. The loss which may hit Virginia hardest, though, is that of No. 93 sophomore Li Xi, who fell to a foot injury during the contest against Duke last Friday.
"The reality is, we were a doubles point up on Duke, and [Xi] was probably going to be our first player off with a win," coach Mark Guilbeau said. "It looked very much like a 4-3 win, so you have to know that you don't control everything. It's an opportunity for us to get better, to be more urgent about what we're doing, not to lower our goals and standards a lot, but to be realistic and know that we need some time to work through things."
As the team heads south, Xi's injury has forced Guilbeau to shift around the doubles matchups. Virginia dropped the doubles point against the Tar Heels last Sunday without her.
"We've got to practice a few things, it doesn't mean that it's just going to be three doubles," Guilbeau said. "We've got to look at the six to eight to ten girls to see if there's different combinations there."
This weekend the team looks to rebuild some of the momentum it lost, beginning with a Saturday matchup against N.C. State (5-11, 1-4 ACC) in Raleigh. The Wolfpack comes into the weekend unranked and has lost four of its last five games. It has also struggled against ACC opponents, only stealing one conference game so far. At first singles, N.C. State is led by No. 39 sophomore Joelle Kissell, who has climbed the national rankings after winning her last three matches. She will most likely square off against No. 16 senior Emily Fraser, who went 1-1 at first singles in last week's action.
The Cavaliers take on another faltering ACC team Sunday, Wake Forest (3-11, 0-5 ACC), which enters after losing three straight matches and eight out of its last 10 tilts. Led by No. 63 senior Kayla Duncan, the Demon Deacons have yet to claim an ACC match this season and will vie for an upset against Virginia.
"It's always tough in the ACC," Guilbeau said. "I think we have a weekend ahead of us where we need to control the spots that we should, and we really should be able to come out of there with good results."
This weekend gives the players an opportunity to work through last weekend's losses and build a strong foundation as the season moves forward.
"[Coach Guilbeau] gave us two days off, so that helped to let everything settle down a little bit, and to get really inspired and fire up, to come back ready to fight," senior Lindsey Hardenbergh said. "Ultimately, it's about staying focused, and taking care of what we can control. We can't control the standings or the rankings, but we can control the daily competition and doing best when it counts"