This week the top-ranked Virginia men's tennis team hosts first and second round play of the 2010 NCAA Tournament at the Snyder Tennis Center. The Cavaliers meet Navy in the first round on Saturday at 1 p.m. Wake Forest and Columbia play the other first round match on Saturday at 10 a.m. Saturday's winners meet on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the second round for a trip to Athens, Ga. the following week for the NCAA Championships. VirginiaSports.com caught up with head coach Brian Boland to preview the tournament.
Question: After a long regular season, you have reached the NCAA Tournament. What are your thoughts as you enter the part of the year that everything all season builds up to?
Boland: We have had a long break since the ACC Tournament three weeks ago. I thought we were playing at a good level and playing with a lot of confidence. We came back in practice and really picked up from that point. I really believe our best tennis is in front of us. I don't think we have played our best match of the year yet. I am really excited to see this team get back into action this weekend in a tough regional.
Question: You are the No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. In each of the last two years, you have come up short in the quest for a NCAA Championship. What do you have to do to reach that ultimate goal this season?
Boland: I felt really good about our approach over the last couple of years, even though we have come up short. I thought we played our best tennis at the end of the season and I don't think that is any different this year. We are just looking for a different end result. I believe the team has really worked hard over the past few weeks and are looking forward to getting a chance to start competing again. There is so much depth in college tennis that you just have to take one match at a time and focus on the things that we do best. You just have to control the things that you can and enjoy the journey.
Question: This season you had a school-record four players selected to the NCAA Singles Championship in Michael Shabaz, Sanam Singh, Drew Courtney and Jarmere Jenkins. What does that feat say about the talent on your roster?
Boland: I am really happy for those four guys. They went out and worked really hard and were able to accomplish that goal of getting into the NCAA Tournament. It is a special opportunity for each of them. Sanam is coming off a run to the semifinals in last year's tournament and is excited for another opportunity. Michael, after winning the doubles last year, I know is looking forward for a chance for a better showing in the singles. Drew and Jarmere have done a great job for us all season and are very deserving of a chance to compete in the tournament. To get four players in the draw for the first time is a proud moment for our program.
Question: You open the NCAA Tournament against Navy for the second consecutive year. You also have an ACC rival in Wake Forest coming to this regional. Is it easier or harder to play teams in the postseason that you are familiar with, but are also familiar with your team?
Boland: It just depends on your approach. I don't think it is necessarily harder or easier. We just have to go through our preparation like we always do and get ready to play Navy on Saturday. We just have to focus on what we can do each day. We try to come out of each practice feeling like we are becoming better tennis players. Our focus is on Navy right now, but we also have a great deal of respect for the other teams coming here this weekend. Columbia has had a great season, winning the Ivy League and Wake Forest, who has always been a really competitive team in the ACC and nationally. We will be ready to play on Saturday and then take it from there.
Question: You are hosting an NCAA regional for the seventh consecutive season, but it is the first time you are sharing hosting duties with the women's team. What does being a dual-gender host site for the first time mean to both programs?
Boland: I am just thrilled for the women's program. They have had their ups and downs this year. Mark Guilbeau and Troy Porco work so hard with that team and it is nice to see them get a break and have the chance to host in front of the best fans in college tennis. I am looking forward to seeing how they perform this weekend. Just like us, they have been working hard over the last few weeks to get ready for this opportunity. Mark and I have always talked about working together to do whatever we can make Virginia tennis the best it can be.