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Cavaliers set to host B.C., VT

Following wearying road trip, squad hopes home cooking sparks success against ACC rivals

After an exhausting stretch that spanned six matches in nine days, the No. 32 Virginia women’s tennis team returns home to host a pair of matches against No. 72 Boston College and No. 55 Virginia Tech Friday and Saturday.

The Cavaliers (6-6, 1-0 ACC) moved up a staggering 15 spots up from their previous position after they shined in the Blue Gray Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala., capturing the title with victories against Michigan State, No. 34 Yale and Tulane. Freshman Stephanie Nauta, ranked No. 71 in the nation in singles, was awarded the Tournament’s MVP as well as the ACC Women’s Tennis Player of the Week for her stellar play.

“It feels great,” Nauta said of the accolades. “I’m feeling really confident. We’ve been working on our fitness a lot so that’s helped me get to a lot more balls.”

Head coach Mark Guilbeau also believed his talented first-year star was deserving of the award, adding how valuable Nauta has been to her teammates.

“She’s been working hard since the beginning and she’s really grown in terms of her spirit on the court, always fought for every point,” Guilbeau said. “But now she’s not only doing that but also she’s showing positive emotion and even sharing that energy with her teammates.”

Nauta and fellow freshman No. 13 Julia Elbaba have fused into a formidable young duo for the Cavaliers as they embark on a pivotal part of their ACC season. Despite a long road trip that featured stints in three different states, Guilbeau sees no cause for concern and believes his team will be ready to play.

“The kids did handle it well — it’s never easy,” Guilbeau said. “We couldn’t pass on getting six good matches in nine days and it was really special to have that end with [the Blue Gray Tennis Classic].”

But Virginia is already experiencing turmoil this early in the season, as key freshman Maci Epstein has been sidelined, possibly for the remainder of the season, with an apparent foot injury. Losing an integral part of the lineup such as Epstein, who has routinely participated in both singles and doubles matches, hurts a Cavalier team heading into the meat of the conference schedule.

“It was a big loss,” Guilbeau said. “Now, everyone has had to really shore up their individual spots and you learn that much more. [But] I feel good about the pairs we have, and I feel like we’re going to settle into a real consistent set of pairs this weekend, “ Guilbeau said. “So all of it looks real good moving ahead.”

Boston College (7-2, 1-1 ACC) invades Charlottesville Friday looking for its first win in 15 tries against Virginia. Although they lack a ranked singles or doubles participant, the Eagles feature a solid mix of seasoned veterans and precocious underclassmen that are certainly capable of stealing a victory from the Cavaliers. Boston College has excelled in close matches, registering a 3-1 record in one-point contests so far.

Last Saturday, the Eagles succumbed to Virginia’s next opponent of the weekend, fierce rival Virginia Tech (13-2, 2-0 ACC). The Virginia players hope the home-court advantage will tip the scale in their favor against their in-state nemesis and help them terminate the Hokies’ seven-game win streak.

“I love the rivalry,” Nauta said. “Especially that we’re playing at home so I’m sure some fans will come out and support us, so it’ll be a great atmosphere.”

First serves commence at 11 a.m. Friday and 12 p.m. Saturday.

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