The No. 15 Virginia women's tennis team heads to Florida this weekend for the Cavaliers' final two games of the regular season. With the ACC Tournament less than a week away, Virginia is looking to put on a good show against conference foes No. 9 Miami and No. 33 Florida State.
"I know we're ready for them," coach Mark Guilbeau said. "This is a huge opportunity for us. We've had a little adversity and taken some losses that maybe we didn't expect, but this gives us a chance to get back on board and maybe ahead of the game."
The Cavaliers (15-5, 6-3 ACC) have been hampered by injuries and inconsistent play throughout the season, including last weekend's split against No. 25 Georgia Tech and No. 18 Clemson. The team has had to make significant changes to both the doubles and singles lineups on a match-to-match basis. Though the constant adjustments have brought mixed success, the situation has been less than ideal. Sophomore Li Xi appears to be nearing a comeback after sustaining the worst of Virginia's injuries, a foot fracture which occurred three weeks ago.
In addition to his players returning to health, Guilbeau is looking to see more excitement from his team, especially with conference seeding at stake this weekend.
"I'd love to see our team be hungrier than they've shown," Guilbeau said. "I think we have some lofty goals, but I'm not so sure that recently our spirit and demeanor has matched that completely. I do think we've adjusted, and that takes some strength, but I don't think that we've shown a ton of spirit across [the board]. There are spots where we can be a lot more vocal, a lot more energetic and show better enthusiasm on the court."
Virginia will need all the energy it can muster today, as the Cavaliers take on highly ranked Miami (16-3, 7-2 ACC) in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes snapped their 14-match win streak last Friday, losing to No. 3 Duke for their first ACC loss of the season. The Hurricanes stumbled again Saturday against No. 5 North Carolina and will go into this weekend desperate for redemption.
"[We need] to play well as a whole team," Virginia sophomore Caryssa Peretz said. "We really want to get our doubles together, especially at [third doubles]. Just stay solid, and I think we can do it. No changes technically, we just want to go in with really good energy, and come out strong, and play like we're the best."
No. 18 senior Anna Bartenstein, who is 12-5 at first singles, and No. 25 senior Gabriela Mejia, who is 14-2 on the second court, lead Miami. The Cavaliers are doing their best to plan for these matchups, and are preparing for the weekend by simulating match conditions as closely as possible during practice.
"For the most part, with the wind down there, we're expecting some slower courts," Guilbeau said. "[The Snyder Courts] were just redone, and they're slower so that's helping us. It's hard to match the heat that we'll face down there, but that's when you rely on your fitness and the work you've done."
The Cavaliers will battle another tough opponent Sunday as they continue their trip with a visit to Florida State (11-8, 4-5 ACC). The Seminoles are coming off back-to-back losses against Duke and North Carolina - the top two teams in the ACC - last weekend. Florida State has produced uneven results in the ACC so far this season, struggling to beat the teams in the top half of the conference but taking care of business against the league's lower tier. The Seminoles have no nationally ranked singles players, although they do field the No. 31 doubles team of junior Francesca Segarelli and sophomore Ruth Seaborne.
With a two-for-two road trip, Virginia could vault past Miami into third place in the ACC. The team is currently tied with Clemson for fourth after losing to the Tigers last week.