Brian Boland has coached for 16 years at the helm of Virginia tennis. This weekend, he’ll lead the Cavaliers for the final time in Charlottesville.
Not that anyone is focused on that at the moment. The Cavaliers begin their quest for a third straight National Championship with Monmouth in a match scheduled for Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. at the Snyder Tennis Center. Luca Corinteli and J.C. Aragone, two of the team’s four seniors, reiterated that the best way to honor Boland’s tenure is to stick to the same principles that have made it so successful to begin with.
That means putting in maximum effort and trusting the process. The results will fall how they fall.
”Obviously we want to take it one day at a time,” Corinteli said. ”All of us love Coach Boland so much and we appreciate everything he’s done for the program and the community so we want to send him out on the best possible note. Again, winning the National Championship is not in our control so we can’t really control that but we can take it day by day and give our best effort and put that on the court every single day and hope that it works out.”
”It’s his last couple of home matches, hopefully at Snyder, and it’s also my last couple of home matches,” Aragone said. ”Obviously that’s very important. We want to leave on a high note, but you never know. You can have a team come out here and everyone’s good and everyone can play so you can’t go in there with expectations. You just have to keep your head down and compete as hard as you can.”
Boland accepted a job with the USTA earlier this spring so this year’s NCAA Tournament begins his final duties with the UVA program. Once the Cavaliers finish their run, he’ll move on to become the USTA Player Development Head of Men’s Tennis. The goal, of course, is to add a little more hardware on the way out of town.
Boland has won nearly 450 matches at Virginia and 12 ACC Championships. His teams also have claimed six ITA National Team Indoor titles and 13 ACC regular season titles. The Hoos have won three of the last four National Championships to culminate the outdoor season. UVA also has produced three ACC Players of the Year, three NCAA Singles Champions, and three NCAA Doubles Champions on the individual level.
It’s a simply remarkable run of high level success. Regardless of this tournament’s outcome, his legacy is secure.
With such a prestigious position waiting at the world level in a matter of weeks, in fact, it could be easy to get distracted by the impending end of his tenure in Charlottesville. He praised his players for not allowing that to happen due to their maturity and willingness to accept challenges. As for his own focus, Boland tuned out his future opportunity to dial in on one last push at Virginia.
”I haven’t put a lot of time into it,” Boland said. ”I have not been helping the USTA for a long time now in terms of the last month, wanting to make sure I’m focusing exclusively on my job here and getting us ready to play this tournament. They’ve been nothing but understanding in that regard so that’s been really helpful. So my focus has been on the guys and I’ve spent a lot of time with the team. It’s been one of the most incredible, refreshing journeys I’ve ever had. It’s turned out as a real positive.”
The senior quartet will also play for the final time at home this weekend. The players have an idea of what they’d like this final tournament weekend in Charlottesville to look like by the time Saturday night rolls around. They want to exhibit the same competitive effort that brought them here in the first place.
The Hoos would also love it if a full and appreciative crowd took in the matches. Boland again praised the Cavalier supporters as the “best fans in college tennis” as he’s done many times over the years here so they think the support will be there again for these matches.
”That would be great,” Corinteli said. ”We’d like everybody to come out. For the four seniors, it’s going to be our last time playing here at home and obviously Coach Boland, it’s going to be the last time for him as well. So it would be great for us to get a good environment and a good crowd.”
”I’m sure they’ll be pretty rowdy,” Aragone said. ”They’ve always been super supportive and especially now with Brian’s decision, they all respect him and love us, so I’m sure they’re going to come out and do their best and so are we.”
Does the significance of these matches – the starting line of hopefully another NCAA Tournament run in Boland’s final year – in front of a potentially excited crowd worry the Hoos’ head coach, though? Not really. He said the team has gelled and developed throughout the season. Plus, the players in the program are wired for exactly that sort of atmosphere in his mind.
”All athletes feed off of those opportunities, particularly the high level athlete,” Boland said. ”They believe in themselves so they want to perform. They’re performers. They want to perform in front of people because they believe in themselves. These are high level athletes and they’ve proven that year after year. So bring on the fans.”