Q&A with Brian Boland
This week the Virginia men’s tennis team opens its 2009-10 season by hosting the UVa Classic at the Snyder Tennis Center. Virginiasports.com caught up with head coach Brian Boland to preview the upcoming season and this weekend’s tournament.
Question: You have had a couple of practices so far this year. What are you seeing from this team just a few days into the season?
Boland: Our veteran leadership is tremendous. Houston Barrick, Sanam Singh, Michael Shabaz and Lee Singer have done a great job our helping our younger players make a positive transition into our program. They have been able to come in and get comfortable early and get right to work. They have a understanding of what the expectations are and what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. We can now focus on becoming better tennis players every day.
Question: The veterans are coming off a successful season and many had strong performances in tournaments over the summer. Where do you see the level of the returning players so far this fall compared to last year?
Boland: I thought we ended on a strong note last year. When you look at the level we were at the end of last season compared to the previous fall, there was tremendous improvement. One thing I see this year is this team is hungry. We came off a tough loss to Southern Cal in the NCAA Quarterfinals. We finished with a 32-1 record but we didn’t accomplish our ultimate goal of winning a NCAA Championship. They are eager to get back to work. They did an excellent job over the summer of working hard and continuing to develop their games. They provided themselves opportunities to compete and had some success in those events. All in all, it was a good summer. We are looking forward to a fall where we will have a chance to play some great tournaments and will have opportunities to see where we are as a team. It is going to be a fun tournament.
Question: Last week, you had a current player and a former player, Michael Shabaz and Somdev Devvarman, compete in the US Open. What does it say about the program to have Cavaliers competing at the highest level in a Grand Slam tournament?
Boland: First and foremost, it is a credit to those young men who made it to the main draw of the US Open. That is an incredible achievement and not many players get that opportunity. There have been a lot of great players who have never made the main draw of a Grand Slam. It is an incredible honor for Michael and Somdev and I certainly don’t think it is going to be last time they have that chance. In terms of our program, it is a great accomplishment. If you look at the past few years and how far the players have come and developed, we have worked hard to maximize the potential of our players and that is something we are proud of. That player development is our No. 1 focus and hopefully that will lead to more and more Virginia players making the main draw of Grand Slams in the future. That is something every one of our players would like to achieve. For me, it is great to see these players reap the rewards of a lot of hard work.
Question: Once again, you have one of the best recruiting classes in the country joining the program. How do integrate that group into the core of veterans that are returning?
Boland: The young guys will continue to learn from the veterans who have been there and done it. I think that Jarmere Jenkins, Dino Dell’Orto, Brian Fang and Julen Uriguen, who will join us in a few months, are going to learn a tremendous amount from the older guys who are the leaders of this program. Those guys have been in the thick of the battles at the highest levels of college tennis for the last few years and have had a great deal success. I think that is something we are proud of. It says a lot about the momentum of our program that we can bring in players like Jarmere, Julen, Dino and Brian that are ready to come in and compete at a high level every day in practice. There are a lot of top players that are interested in our program because of the success we have had and how we have gone about it. I am really looking forward to working with that group. Early on, I have already been impressed with their work ethic and their commitment to becoming better players. They have doing a good job not only on the court, but also in the classroom.
Question: In addition to the newcomers, you also return a veteran in Milo Johnson who is like a newcomer because he wasn’t been a part of the program for over a year. What have you seen from him in his return?
Boland: We are very excited to have Milo back on the team after taking a couple years away from the program. He put in a tremendous amount of time on the court over the summer. He decided after his second year here at Virginia to change sports and try baseball. I thought that was a positive thing for him. It gave him an opportunity to explore something else and I think in the end he realized his ultimate passion is to play tennis and be a part of our program. I think he will make the most of this opportunity to come back and will be able to finish his time at Virginia in a way he would want to.
Question: You have the first of two home fall tournaments this weekend with the UVa Classic. What should Cavalier fans expect to see from this team this year, beginning this weekend?
Boland: They are going to see two tournaments that are bringing in players from around the country that are of a high level that will provide a great opportunity for our players. Both tournaments have a lot of ranked players, especially the Ranked Plus One Invitational later this month that will have over 30 ranked players. That makes it one of, if not the best, non-ITA national tournaments in the nation. That is something we are very proud of.
This week, we have the UVa Classic, which is in its eighth year. It is a great event and it is a chance to get some matches in after a couple weeks of hard work. We are going to be able to put some of the things we have been working on in practice into use in actual match situations. I think that is a big part of that development process. We are looking forward to seeing how are newcomers compete in that situation in addition to seeing the progress of our returning players.