This week the Virginia women's tennis team hosts first and second round NCAA Tournament action for the first time in school history. The Cavaliers meet Princeton in the first round on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Snyder Tennis Center. Duke and Long Island play at 11 a.m. on Friday in the other first round match with the winners playing at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the second round. Virginiasports.com caught up with head coach Mark Guilbeau to preview the regional.
Question: This is the first time that Virginia has hosted a women's tennis NCAA regional. What does that mean to your program?
Guilbeau: It means a lot to us. We have a very young group, we will have two sophomores and four freshmen in our lineup, and this is a great experience for this group to have. It gives them a feel for the level we should be aspiring for. Not to take anything away from hosting this year, but we want to host as a seeded team. The committee did us a favor, and did something that helps the tournament logistically, by having us host this year. Our goal is to earn that host site and be seeded in the future.
Question: It will be a tough regional this weekend. You open against a difficult Princeton team on Friday and if you win that match, most likely a second round match with Duke, the reigning NCAA Champions. What are you expecting from this draw?
Guilbeau: We are not even thinking of Duke or Long Island right now, our whole focus is on Princeton. That is as tough of a first round match as we could have gotten, and if you look at the rankings, they are No. 33, the highest ranked team that is a three seed in a regional. They have every incentive to come here and do something that their program has never done, which is win a round in the NCAA Tournament. We are a team that is looking to take the step to the round of 16 level, but before you can do that you have to consistently get to the round of 32. We have our hands full. We have a new lineup and the kids are adjusting, but we will likely need to play our best match of the season to beat Princeton.
Question: Towards the end of the regular season, your team was playing its best tennis of the season. How do you keep that momentum going into the postseason?
Guilbeau: You have to draw on those matches. Those were long matches and a lot of experiences that these players can draw from. To maintain that mental approach, remembering all the good things that you did to get to that high level, those are keys. A lot of it is what goes on in practice these past few weeks and maintaining a high level there. It is something that is sometimes hard this time of the year with exams going on. But I think the team has done a good job handling all of those things and we will be ready for the this weekend.
Question: As strong as the ACC was this season, how did playing in this conference prepare you for the postseason?
Guilbeau: It let this young team see what the standard is and where we are striving to get to. Playing a schedule like that is something that you just need to experience and learn from. It could really go either way. The fact that we were so close in a number of those matches but didn't win most of them, that could have really beaten us down. Or it could have been a positive. I like how we reacted to those situations. After our toughest losses of the year, we came back and played well in the next match. That shows the character and desire of this team. Hopefully we can use that experience to get a good win on Friday in the first round and build upon that performance with another good match in the second round.
Question: What do you think the atmosphere will be like this weekend with both the men and women hosting regionals?
Guilbeau: No question it is going to be a great environment to play. It always is. Our regular season matches always have a great atmosphere. On that note, I want to thank everyone that is helping us be able to not only host, but host in a facility like this that provides such a great environment. I think the NCAA committee notices what a great place this is to host this tournament. The crowd is going to be great and I hope our kids and rise up to the occasion.