No. 14 Virginia Ready For Tough Opener at Team Indoors

By: Nate Sulham Email
By: Nate Sulham Email
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Virginia is hosting the ITA National Team Indoor Tournament for the fourth straight season at the Boar's Head Sports Club.

So much for home cooking.

The 14th-ranked Cavaliers drew the unenviable task of facing the Tournament's top-seed, Florida, in the first round of play beginning Friday.

The Gators are the No. 2-ranked team in the country and were a National Semifinalist last spring but the Cavaliers insist they're not letting the hype affect them.

"Florida is a great team but you have to realize they're coming from outdoor tennis to indoor tennis," sophomore Julia Elbaba explained. "I really like our chances. Our whole team has been playing really well and if we fight hard and bring our 'A' games we have a good shot."

"It's a perfect challenge and a perfect opportunity and it's all good," head coach Mark Guilbeau added. "Florida is a good team, a great program with tremendous tradition. They've won this Tournament but it still comes down to individual matchups. Six girls playing against six girls and three doubles courts, so you have nine spots and you go after it."

The Cavaliers are coming into the 16-team Tournament with a good deal of confidence. The 'Hoos are 3-0 on the season, with wins over William & Mary, VCU and South Carolina, and their top players, like 11th-ranked Elbaba are also off to strong starts.

"We're definitely coming into the weekend with some confidence," Elbaba said. "Some great wins against some great schools so I'm really excited to see what this weekend has in store."

Guilbeau is hoping the home-court advantage is one his team can thrive on with the college tennis spotlight fixed on Charlottesville this weekend.

"What it does for the kids and the fans and building the program is amazing," Guilbeau said of hosting the Tournament. "All the top teams are here. In some ways it turns Boar's Head and UVa into a mecca for college tennis."

Virginia may go into its matchup the underdog against Florida, but the 'Hoos have a secret weapon of sorts.

Sophomore Danielle Collins is in her first year in a Virginia uniform, but she spent last year with the Gators before transferring to UVa.

Collins felt "a little bit of nervousness and a little bit of excitement at the same time" when she saw her team's draw, but spoke with her new team about the challenge they face.

"I told everybody just to go out and fight and play our hardest and not really worry about who we're playing," Collins explained. "Obviously we're playing the number one seed but we treat all our opponents the same with an equal amount of respect. So we're ready to play no matter who it is and we're going to bring our 'A' game."

Guilbeau says he's picked Collins' brain for possible inside information on the Gators, but moreso to get an idea of how he can get the Virginia program to the level Florida is on.

"It's been good to talk to Danielle about all of it and have some experience from another program as well," he explained. "She said some great things to our team and her teammates about what it takes to do some of the things that Florida's done and also some of the positive things we've done."

While the individual talent may favor the Gators, Collins thinks she knows the recipe to success for Virginia.

"I think it takes a real team and that's something we have. The camaraderie we share and the hard work we've put in the last couple months the whole time I've been here is what it takes."

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