Host Hoos Seek Third Straight Indoors Title
Feb 12, 2010
Virginia coach Brian Boland's team heads into the National Team Indoors Tournament as the number two seed.
The ITA National Team Indoors tournament is a curious event. The dual-match season - which ultimately ends with the NCAA-sponsored outdoor championship tournament - is already several weeks underway. The rest of the indoor season is already a thing of the past, with the National Individual Indoors tournament already occurring months earlier. From the perspective of one who is gunning for the NCAA Championship, the National Indoors may be viewed as a distraction from the ultimate goal.
But the tennis world doesn't see it that way. Least of all does Virginia, the winners of the last two National Team Indoor Championship tournaments in 2008-09. Take it from former Cavalier Somdev Devvarman - arguably considered the best college tennis player of all time. Devvarman was the winner of two NCAA singles championships, and back-to-back ITA National Player of the Year. But none of that meant as much as the team's Indoors title during Devvarman's senior year, according to Virginia coach Brian Boland.
"One of the things Somdev Devvarman said is ... winning the National Team Indoor Championship was his greatest accomplishment," Boland recalled. "I think that kind of gives everybody an idea of the importance of the event, and how special it can be to the players on the team."
Now, Virginia has the honor of hosting the tournament - which annually features the top 16 teams in the nation - for the first time in school history. The Hoos took home the last two titles in Seattle in 2008 and Chicago in 2009; with a tournament title in Charlottesville, the No. 2 seed Cavaliers would three-peat for the first time since Stanford took home three titles in a row in the mid-1970s. The tournament features eight matches from Friday-Sunday and the final on Monday at noon, all at the Boar's Head Sports Club.
Virginia first takes the court at 6:30 p.m. Friday night against 15-seed Alabama. Should the tournament play out as the seeds dictate, the Cavaliers would have the opportunity to play top-seed USC, who thwarted the Hoos' hopes for a National Championship by bouncing them in the NCAA Quarterfinals last May. In the more immediate time frame, the Hoos hope to bounce back from a 4-3 loss to Kentucky last Saturday, their first regular-season loss since March 18, 2007 - a span of 63 matches.
Michael Shabaz will play at the number one singles and doubles slots to open the National Indoors Tournament Friday evening. (Photo courtesy Virginia Athletics Media Relations)
Boland and junior Michael Shabaz - the Cavaliers' highest-ranked player in singles - spoke with reporters Thursday afternoon about this year's team, and most particularly the National Team Indoors tournament.
On the mindset of the team after the loss to Kentucky ...
Boland: "What we try to do, and what we've tried to do every year, is you just prepare the best you can, and go out and compete as hard as you can every match, and if you do that, you can deal with the results much better. That's been our motto for a long time. I believe the guys have done a good job of it; they're very resilient. This past week they worked really hard, and we're excited about what should be a great night tomorrow night against Alabama."
On Alabama ...
Boland: "They have an outstanding team. [Alabama coach] Billy Pate played for many years, and runs an outstanding program. They play in a great conference in the SEC, so I think that's our focus, and we're going to need to play great tennis."
On how team will respond after losing first regular season match since 2007 ...
Boland: "I have no doubt what the response will be. We're going to play great [Friday] night. We'll be ready to play, and you'll see some guys out there fighting really hard. I don't think there will be any problem with our ability to bounce back. We have had a great week of practice. We're ready to go, we're excited; they've been looking forward to this event for a long time. I have no doubt we'll be ready to play [Friday] night."
On what the National Team Indoors event means in the scope of the season ...
Boland: "It's one of the biggest events that college tennis holds. There's the Indoor Championships and the Outdoor Championships; obviously the Outdoor Championships is the NCAA Championships, and this [Indoors] is sponsored and held by the ITA. Certainly the teams take it very seriously, and it's an opportunity for us to get some great matches in early on in the season, and I think the stakes are as high as they can get at this point in the season."
On what it means to the program to be able to host the event ...
Boland: "This is my ninth year at Virginia, and I think it's a tremendous honor. The program's come a long ways. The program's continued to get better each and every year. We've built new facilities. There's been so much support - not only in the community, but so many people have come together to make this such a special program. I think this is a tremendous honor for us, and certainly a chance for all our great fans to come out and see great tennis all weekend along."
On attracting this event to Charlottesville ...
Boland: "We've hosted the National Individual Indoor Championships, so that's something that we started with. And then James Neiderer, and the staff here at the Boar's Head Sport's Club wanted to see if we could bring the National Team Indoors to Charlottesville. They've done a great job preparing, they worked so hard to put it together, and I think all the credit goes to the University of Virginia Foundation, and James Neiderer and his staff."
On whether hosting the event is a dream come true as a coach ...
Boland: "Over the years we've worked really hard, and certainly we've had some accomplishments, and this is a tremendous honor for our program. It's something that I think we're all very proud of, and I hope the guys embrace it and enjoy it. I have no doubt that they'll be ready to play [Friday] night."
Sanam Singh is slated for the No. 2 singles slot for Friday's match against Alabama.
On building the program to its present status so quickly ...
Boland: "It's hard to put a timetable on things. One thing that I knew from the minute I walked on Grounds was that this was a special place. I have always believed that you can provide the best of all worlds to a student-athlete at the University of Virginia. We've worked really hard to bring in great players, and develop their skills, and provide them a great experience. We've built that momentum over the years. I never really put a timetable on it; I'm not surprised, because I think it's a direct reflection of what a great institution this is, and I think it speaks a lot about the University of Virginia."
On whether there was a key to building this successful of a program ...
Boland: "I certainly think, surrounding yourself with great people - not only players, but people that were willing to get on board and really support the program the way it needed to be supported to compete at the highest level. Administratively, we were able to gain that support over the years, as well as just bring in players who have the same goals and ambitions that the coaching staff did, which was to develop and compete at the highest level. We've continued to do that, and I'm really proud of the student-athletes that we've had come through here, and the success that they're having on the professional tour, and in life. We'll just continue to work hard to compete for championships year in and year out, and provide the student-athletes the best possible experience."
On what it would mean to win this event in Charlottesville ...
Boland: "There's no doubt that would be special. But right now - as any coach would say - we need to take care of Alabama. We've had great success in this tournament in the past, and it was a thrill both in Seattle and in Chicago. Certainly to have the opportunity to play at home is really special, and I have no doubt the guys will make the most of it."
On what the feeling was after losing the first regular season match since 2007 to Kentucky ...
Shabaz: "Since me and Sanam [Singh] have been here, we haven't lost a dual match since the NCAA outside event, so it was definitely a weird feeling. But it was just one match, and I think we've moved on as a team from there. We're looking forward to this week."
On what the National Team Indoors event means in the context of the season ...
Shabaz: "It's basically, every single team gets to compete, and play just like it's the outdoor [championship] event, but instead we're playing inside. The fact that we get to host it and that we've won it the last two years I think says a lot. We're hopefully looking forward to winning it for a third time."
On what it means to the program to host this event ...
Shabaz: "I think just the fact that we're at home, and we have a great crowd, and a lot of support. A lot of effort's been put behind getting this tournament at Boar's Head in Charlottesville. The coaching staff has done a great job in trying to bring it here, and it's a big advantage. When you get to sleep in your own bed, and come here and play in front of a bunch of fans who really enjoy watching you play, I think it should definitely help us."
Virginia's line-up for tonight's match against Alabama
Singles: 1) #3 Michael Shabaz 2) #12 Sanam Singh 3) #16 Jarmere Jenkins 4) #31 Drew Courney, 5) #58 Houston Barrick, 6) #28 Lee Singer
Doubles: 1) Courtney/Shabaz, 2) Jenkins/Barrick 3) Singh/Singer
|Printer-Friendly E-mail this Article|