Cavalier Corner

August 2013

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Smashing Success Tennis Player Julia Elbaba Had A Fantastic First Year I By Mike Scandura n addition to the usual adjustments for all first-years, rookie women's tennis player Julia Elbaba had to battle a stress fracture in her leg. Virginia women's tennis head coach Mark Guilbeau erred on the side of caution last fall. "Julia had amazing accomplishments at the beginning of the fall season," Guilbeau said. "Even with an injury, she was able to work her way back. "We took it very cautiously. It took more time [to recover] than she wanted. But it's a long career and we were very smart including the medical side." Being cautious with this first-year Cavalier paid off like a tennis version of hitting the lottery. Elbaba, the UVa Female Rookie of the Year, set a school record for victories by a first-year player with 35, which also ranks second on the school's all-time single-season list. The accolades she received were numerous. Elbaba became only the second Cavalier to earn ITA All-America honors, plus she was tabbed as the ITA Atlantic Region Rookie of the Year, the ACC Freshman of the Year and All-ACC. She rose as high as No. 4 in the ITA singles rankings, the highest ranking ever achieved by a Virginia women's player, before finishing at No. 15. And she also became the first Cavalier to earn a seed (No. 9-16) at the NCAA Singles Championship. "I went into college without expectations," Elbaba said. "My number one goal was to become an independent person. I'm an only child. Being on the tennis court was like being at home. It took away all my homesickness. "That's why I played so well in tournaments because it felt like I was at home." Elbaba, who twice played in the Junior U.S. Open, quickly realized the differences between female rookie of the year Julia elbaba playing junior tennis and playing tennis at the level at which Virginia competes. "The major difference is playing with a coach on the court and playing for a team," she said of her first season at UVa. "It gives you so much more motivation. It makes you want to work hard and not give up. "It was the greatest feeling having a coach on the court and having teammates pulling for you. You don't have that in junior tennis. It's not as motivating. In college tennis you get more support." Guilbeau feels it's easy to understand why Elbaba enjoyed such an extraordinary rookie season. "She's definitely playing with an offensive purpose," he said. "She's an all-court player. There isn't as much net play as there used to be, but Julia cer-

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