The Virginia women’s tennis team begins its 2008 dual match season as it hosts a doubleheader Saturday at Boyd Tinsley Courts at the Boar’s Head Sports Club. The Cavaliers play Marshall at 10 a.m. and Richmond at 4 p.m. Virginiasports.com caught up with head coach Mark Guilbeau for a preview of the start of the season.Question: The dual match season begins on Saturday. How excited are you to get the season started?
Guilbeau: I am pretty excited. At the same time, I know that we have some challenges ahead of us. It will give us a chance to rise to the challenges and see what we are made of as a team.Question: You open the season with a doubleheader. In the past, you have played numerous doubleheaders early in the season. What are the advantages of playing two matches in a day?
Guilbeau: This doubleheader will be a little different than ones in the past. Both matches are ones that could go either way. It is going to require us to play our best in both doubles and singles. You play doubleheaders to help your schedule and get the most out of your dates. It is also a good reinforcement for being fit. In some ways, you are using it as another step in training. You are getting in a lot of tennis early in the season.Question: Last weekend you hosted the UVa Invitational. What did that tournament teach you about this team?
Guilbeau: The one thing that was real positive was the doubles. Our kids, just in terms of strategy, were impressive. I think we will be challenged to win doubles points this year, but I think it is also going to take some good play from our opponents to be able to beat us. We switched things up in terms of pairings and it worked out equally as well. It speaks to each player’s ability to handle to strategy and positions that allows us to mix and match in doubles. Question: Was there anyone who stood out in singles at the tournament?
Guilbeau: I think Amanda Rales has made as big of a jump as you could possibly make in a couple of years of college tennis. She is a completely changed player. She has developed into a legitimate top-level player, and that is well earned. She has worked hard on her fitness and her strength and that goes along with the right type of heart and commitment for this. In addition, I think she has separated herself as a leader and is willing to do the things to lead in competition. Question: You only have eight players on the roster for this spring. What challenges come with having a lack of depth?
Guilbeau: I think you just have to look at it positively. We are definitely very thin. Each player is going to have a tremendous opportunity to go to their maximum level. If you look at someone like Amanda, or Caroline Hammond last year, and see where they have come from and go to can be amazing. I think our players have a great opportunity to have the chance to develop individually. That development could lead to success as a team.
Question: All eight of the players were on the team last year. Does having been here last year to build upon help in their development?
Guilbeau: It helps in little ways, which are important. Not having to reiterate little routines on match day and at practice helps. We know how they work and they know how we work and that familiarity is advantage.
Question: What can fans expect to see this weekend when they come out to the doubleheader?
Guilbeau: This weekend we are very evenly matched with our opponents. I have a lot of respect for Marshall and Richmond. Both programs have developed and gotten stronger. Marshall has been a very strong team for years and done a great job of recruiting and Richmond is now doing the same thing. So on Saturday we will have two very competitive matches. I hope fans will see our team have a strong, genuine focus. I hope they see our players enjoying themselves despite that fact that the matches will be intense and tight. I think when fans see players giving everything they have on the court, it allows them to get behind the players even more, and that is a great boost. We have great fans and we are very fortunate to be playing in a community like Charlottesville that loves the game of tennis so much.