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Women’s tennis sweeps final two home matches, wins sixth straight

Virginia bests No. 27 Georgia Tech, No. 15 Clemson, prepares for four-match road trip

	<p>No. 50 freshman Rachel Pierson defeated Georgia Tech freshman Rasheeda McAdoo 6-3, 6-0 to clinch the match for Virginia, 4-2.</p>

No. 50 freshman Rachel Pierson defeated Georgia Tech freshman Rasheeda McAdoo 6-3, 6-0 to clinch the match for Virginia, 4-2.

The No. 9 Virginia women’s tennis team extended its winning streak to six matches by sweeping senior weekend with victories against No. 27 Georgia Tech and No. 15 Clemson. After scraping together a tough 4-2 win Saturday against the Yellow Jackets, the Cavaliers defeated a hot Clemson team Sunday, 5-2.

Virginia (15-4, 9-1 ACC) got off to a fast start against Georgia Tech (9-7, 6-4 ACC), claiming the doubles point before quickly capturing the first singles point. Despite the early 2-0 lead, the Cavaliers had their work cut out for them as the victory required a battle on every court.

“It’s a tricky thing,” coach Mark Guilbeau said. “You want your kids to leave with a ton of confidence but you also want to be realistic and understand it was a lot of up and down and back and forth.”

In doubles, senior Li Xi and sophomore Stephanie Nauta earned the first victory, defeating senior Muriel Wacker and sophomore Natasha Prokhnevska, 8-3. An 8-4 win by sophomores Danielle Collins and Maci Epstein clinched the doubles point, allowing the Cavaliers to abandon the match at top court where the No. 9 duo of sophomore Julia Elbaba and freshman Rachel Pierson trailed fourth-ranked sophomores Kendal Woodard and Megan Kurey.

No. 33 Collins set the tone early for the singles competition, cruising to a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Prokhnevska.

The Yellow Jackets did not lay down, however, defeating Epstein and Xi on the fifth and sixth courts, respectively, to even the score at 2-2. No. 3 Elbaba then fought her way to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Woodard to recapture the lead.

With the match depending on the outcome on the third or fourth court, No. 50 Pierson defeated freshman Rasheeda McAdoo 6-3, 6-0 to clinch the win for Virginia.

“I didn’t even realize that my match was the last deciding match,” Pierson said. “My opponent is actually really good and she’s tricky so I was trying to think more about strategy and not too much about what game it was and where I was in the match.”

The next day, the Cavaliers welcomed a Clemson (17-4, 9-1 ACC) team that snapped their six-match winning streak last season. In their match Friday, the Tigers blanked No. 33 Florida State (11-9, 4-6 ACC), bringing a 10-match win streak and a perfect conference record to Charlottesville on Virginia’s Senior Day.

“Clemson’s gotten the best of U.Va. over a number of years,” Guilbeau said. “Any coach could say that the next match is the biggest match of the year, but this [was] obviously a very big match.”

Prior to the game, Virginia honored its four seniors — Marjorie Baker, Clare Spooner, Caryssa Peretz and Xi. Although the group has not seen much playing time this season, their contributions to the team extend far beyond the court.

“All the seniors have just helped me,” Pierson said. “As a freshman [the transition] is such a big jump and you don’t know what to expect. It’s nice to have another support system on the team.”

While the Cavaliers were able to tame the Tigers, the doubles competition served a preview for what Virginia could expect in singles. Collins and Epstein recorded the first doubles victory before No. 26 senior Yana Koroleva and junior Beatrice Gumulya upset Elbaba and Pierson, 8-6.

With the doubles point resting on the second court, Xi and Nauta secured the point by defeating junior Romy Koelzer and sophomore Tristen Dewar in a thrilling 8-7(3) tiebreaker.

“In the doubles, I told our team we kind of had to win it twice,” Guilbeau said. “In the start we were doing really well, [Clemson] came back, and we still got it done.”

Clemson struck first in the singles competition, evening the score to 1-1 when sophomore Jessy Rompies downed Epstein 6-3, 6-3.

Refusing to let the Tigers pull ahead, Elbaba recaptured the lead for the Cavaliers with a decisive 6-4, 6-4 win against No. 46 Koroleva.

A 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory by Pierson allowed No. 45 Nauta clinched the win for Virginia on the third court by defeating No. 111 Gumulya 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. No. 64 Koelzer added one last point for the Tigers, defeating Collins, 7-6(5), 7-5.

Peretz tallied the Cavalier’s final point, earning a sentimental victory on the sixth court to conclude the day.

“I haven’t been able to play much this year so I was super honored to be able to get out on the court,” Peretz said. “A lot of people think that [Senior Day] could be a distraction, but I think we handled it really well and came out with a bang.”

Virginia now faces a daunting task in playing the rest of its ACC competition on the road. The two-week, four-match stretch includes taking on a tough No. 14 Miami (14-4, 8-2 ACC) team to conclude the regular season.

“Sometimes road trips bring your team even closer together,” Guilbeau said. “We’ll bond and spend some time talking about these last four good conference matches.”

The Cavaliers return to action when the team travels to North Carolina to take on NC State and Wake Forest April 12 and 13.