Following two dominant wins on a road trip through North Carolina last week, the No. 13 Virginia women's tennis team comes home this weekend to face another two tough ACC opponents. The Cavaliers will attempt to overcome a string of recent injuries when No. 25 Georgia Tech (9-9, 3-4 ACC) comes into town today and No. 24 Clemson (11-8, 4-3 ACC) pays a visit tomorrow.
"You're always happy to win in the ACC," coach Mark Guilbeau said about last weekend's victories against N.C. State and Wake Forest. "Obviously, we're still challenged a little bit. The lineup's not at full strength, so we're trying to maximize every area we can. We're still looking at some different [pairings] in the doubles and trying to figure out what our best lineup is."
During the singles portion of a 6-1 win at Wake Forest Sunday, Virginia (14-4, 5-2 ACC) played without No. 16 senior Emily Fraser, the team's usual representative on the No. 1 singles court. The Cavaliers' ability to rally without their leader has boosted the team's confidence going forward.
"It shows that when each of us are disciplined and on the right track, we can do things [with the lineup] and switch [players] around, and we have the depth there," No. 43 senior Lindsey Hardenbergh said.
Fraser's absence, following recent injuries to both sophomore Li Xi and junior Erin Vierra, could have been devastating. Vierra retired during the first set of her singles match against Wake Forest, conceding the only point Wake Forest scored. The shifts and injuries have forced the team to play matches it might not have played under normal circumstances. Junior Hana Tomljanovic, who has spent most of the season at fourth singles, moved up to second singles Sunday. Guilbeau praised her adaptability and recent quality of play.
"The kids that really needed to step up and make sure they took care of business at the top did it," Guilbeau said. "When [Tomljanovic] is playing well, her level is as good as anyone's so we're just trying to keep that consistent from day to day."
Virginia must maintain its strong form when it takes on Georgia Tech today. The Cavaliers met the Yellow Jackets earlier this year and seized a 4-1 victory during consolation play at the National Team Indoors in February. No. 17 senior Jillian O'Neill, who defeated Fraser in their first match this year 7-6, 6-3, leads the team at first singles. She is 11-6 overall this year at that position. O'Neill also makes up half of the No. 10 doubles team in the country. Sophomore Alex Anghelescu and O'Neill, despite their high ranking, have teamed for just a 10-8 record.
"Certainly if we do get any of the same matchups, we're going to be on top of that 100 percent," Guileau said. "I think they're going to change their doubles, so we need to be ready to do our very best, but also to focus as much as we can on our specifics."
Saturday, the Cavaliers take on Clemson, another highly ranked ACC team. The Tigers arrive in Charlottesville as losers of two straight matches, having dropped decisions to No. 3 Duke and No. 8 North Carolina. No. 55 senior Keri Wong has played at first singles for the Tigers this year, and she is part of the No. 17 doubles team in the country along with senior Josipa Bek.
But the Cavaliers know winning this weekend's matches will require more than just quality play; the team needs to show the requisite mental determination to overcome its Southern foes.
"We've been dealing with a little bit of injuries so everyone is just making sure that they're taking care of their bodies and getting the rest they need," Hardenbergh said. "We talk about winning the 85 percent, which means tennis is 15 percent of what happens, and the other stuff - attitude, effort [and] the mental [aspect]