Q&A with Brian Boland
The Virginia men’s tennis team won its second consecutive Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championship last weekend in Chicago. The Cavaliers are 12-0 this season and return home on Saturday to host Boise State (noon) and Boston College (6 p.m.). VirginiaSports.com caught up with head coach Brian Boland to review National Team Indoors and look ahead to the rest of the season.
Question: Did winning your second ITA National Team Indoor Championship feel any different than winning your first one last season?
Boland: I believe this one was in a lot of ways more meaningful and more enjoyable because it was less expected than last year’s. Last year we went into National Indoors as the number one seed and undefeated. Even though we were undefeated going into it this year, we were the No. 5 seed. We had lost three of the best players in the country off of last year’s team and we had some young players on the court for us this year. I am proud of both championships, but I think this one is some ways is more special.
Question: Do you think there was less pressure on the team this year going into the tournament as underdogs instead of the heavy favorite you were last year?
Boland: I think there was less pressure, but I don’t necessarily look at that as a good thing. I have always tried to tell the guys that we are the type of program that embraces that pressure and those expectations and we have always done a good job with that. It is possible that being the No. 5 seed let the guys relax a little bit, but at the same time I don’t think that it had a big bearing on the outcome. I think the result came from how much work this team has put in over the last month and how much they have developed as players individually and how much they have come together as a team.
Question: You mentioned losing three great seniors (Somdev Devvarman, Treat Huey and Ted Angelinos) from last year’s team. Did you think that after losing them that this year’s team would be able to compete at this high a level so soon?
Boland: I certainly thought we had the potential to be at this level. I just wasn’t sure how quickly that actually would happen. I believed that this team had the level of talent, work ethic and chemistry to bring it all together and compete at the highest level, it was just a question of when. This team has the right leadership and talent to do some great things. They have already accomplished so much, but the hard part is still ahead of us.
Question: You had some veterans at the top of the lineup who had been part of a National Indoor title last year, but you also had some newcomers in the lineup that were getting their first taste of college tennis at the highest level. How were Drew Courtney and Steven Eelkman Rooda able to come in and contribute in some key positions last week?
Boland: I think what really helped with Steven and Drew is that they were exposed to some high level tennis already this season prior to this tournament. Although Steven didn’t play as much as Drew over those first few matches, just being around the team during those matches and seeing what dual match college tennis is like certainly helped. He got a couple matches before the tournament and those really helped him get comfortable. I am certainly proud of both them, who were extremely composed and played well throughout the entire tournament.
Question: How do you keep the momentum of winning this championship going as you continue on the rest of the season, especially the outdoor season?
Boland: With momentum comes a great deal of confidence. This team has that right now. They are enjoying the journey. They are going out every day, working hard and pushing each other to get better. I have no doubt they are excited to get back out on the practice courts and we are looking forward to getting back to action this weekend against Boise State and Boston College. One of the great attributes of this team is its focus. I have really seen how much they have developed so far this season and I have no reason to believe that it won’t continue.
Question: You are likely going to take over No. 1 in the rankings this week, a spot you held for all of last season. Do you think the mindset of this year’s team changes now that you once again have that target on your back?
Boland: Not at all. This is where we want to be. We always try to be the best. At this point, our ranking has no influence on the guys and how they go about their business. It is gives us another opportunity to meet these challenges and we are looking forward to it.