In a season of historic firsts for the Virginia women's tennis program, another entry or two can now be added to the ledger. With a 4-2 victory over ACC-rival NC State in yesterday's second round, the Cavaliers have advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. In addition, the win was #11 ranked Virginia's 20th of the season, marking the first time the UVa women have reached that mark.
"To see this team get through this stage and be able to celebrate this accomplishment, I couldn't be happier," said head coach Mark Guilbeau. "We can finally talk about the round of 16 and how exciting that is going to be. They are about to experience something that will help them understand why all the hard work is worth it."
The match was anything but easy. Virginia actually started quickly in the doubles matches and appeared to be on their way to clinching the doubles point when the rains came, forcing a delay. At the end of the delay, play was moved indoors to the Tinsley Courts, and Virginia's #1 doubles team of Lindsey Hardenbergh and Erin Vierra ultimately took an 8-4 win to clinch the point.
In singles action, NC State quickly won at #4 singles, before UVa's #6 seed Maria Fuccillo took a 6-3, 6-3 decision to give Virginia the edge. Every other subsequent match was hotly-contested. First, #2 seed Emily Fraser won 7-6(2), 6-1, then NC State's Lenka Hojckova took two tie-breakers from UVa's Caryssa Peretz at #5 singles to cut Virginia's edge to 3-2 overall.
With #3 seed Erin Vierra locked up in a three-set thriller, UVa's top seed Hardenbergh finally clinched the victory with a 7-5, 6-2 win. An exciting win, and the Hoos now move on to the Round of 16, where they will play UCLA on Friday (at Stanford).
What's next for the Cavaliers? Lindsey Hardenbergh isn't satisfied with just reaching the Round of 16:
"I'd love to win a round. I'd love to win a couple rounds. Heck, I'd love to win the whole thing. But we'll just take it one step at a time, which is how we took this regional."
Coach Guilbeau wants his team to enjoy the moment, but stay focused:
"It feels really good, and again, it's all about them," said an emotional Guilbeau of his bunch. "We've got two kids that are third-years that have been working really hard -- they've put in four years worth already. But to see these guys be able to get through that stage and that step and to be able to celebrate, I couldn't be happier.
"Finally we can talk about the Round of 16 and how exciting that's going to be, and I think they're about to experience something that's going to maybe help them understand why all this hard work is really worth it. The process is great to begin with, but when you get to these special moments, it's going to be really nice for them, and they deserve it."
It has been an historic season for the UVa women; who's to say that they don't have a few more accomplishments in store?