Saturday, February 6, 2016

Interview with UVA head coach Mark Guilbeau

UVA senior Danielle Collins. © Jonathan Kelley, On the Rise
On day 1 of the 2016 ITA Team Indoor National Championship, the University of Virginia pulled off an emotional win over the #5 seed, Texas A&M. After the win, I spoke with head coach Mark Guilbeau to discuss various aspects of the match. I posted the full interview at the end of this article.

"I feel great about this match," said Guilbeau. "I feel like every team has their challenges, but we certainly are facing a lot right now and these kids focused and played hard."

This was the first competition for the team since five players were suspended for unspecified rules violations. The suspensions came after the team beat Columbia University to win the ITA Kickoff Weekend on January 23. The following Friday, January 29, only 5 players suited up for the team's match against the University of South Carolina, forcing UVA to forfeit a doubles and a singles match which contributed to a 4-3 loss, their first of the season.

The suspensions added to an already obstacle-ridden year for Guilbeau's team. The first blow came when prized recruit Sophie Chang decided not to go to college. The loss to the Gamecocks also led to UVA's unpublished, pre-tournament ranking falling below several other teams, leaving them unseeded for the ITA Indoors.

On Monday, February 1, some of the players were reinstated; two of those players, junior Victoria Olivarez and freshman Meghan Kelley, were in the line-up for the Wahoos on Friday.

Guilbeau didn't discuss specifics of the suspensions or reinstatements, although he mentioned that senior Maci Epstein was still suspended. But in talking about the match, he expressed his pride in the team's work in overcoming adversity and his hope that the team would grow stronger as it worked through these issues.

UVA junior Victoria Olivarez. © Jonathan Kelley, On the Rise
UVA won the doubles point in come-from-behind fashion: after dropping the #3 match, Kelley and senior Danielle Collins won 6-3, then seniors Julia Elbaba and Stephanie Nauta won 7-6(5). "It was good to see the comeback in the doubles there, that took composure," said Guilbeau. "And honestly even without the doubles, I know the resiliency we have, we're going to fight to where, really you look at it, maybe we could have done it even without" winning the doubles point.

In singles, Elbaba got UVA's first win at #2 singles 6-2 6-4 over former Cavalier Rachel Pierson. The matches at #3 and #4 finished simultaneously, with each school winning one. That put UVA up 3-1, with three matches going: Collins at #1, who had come back from a 1-6 1-4* deficit to take her match into a third set; freshman Erica Susi, who was up a set but down a break at #6; and Kelley, who clinched for the Hoos with a 7-5 6-2 win over Domenica Gonzalez at #5.

"Some lessons have been learned for sure, and Meghan came back real well. You could see that was probably the most tactically specific match. She really needed to be really find that opponent's backhand," which she did successfully. Guilbeau added that he was "very proud of Erica Susi. That's a non-scholarship kid that we've already rewarded with a scholarship this semester, and you can see how much she deserves that. She fights her brains out."

UVA faces the University of California in Saturday's quarterfinal at 3:30 p.m.


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