At noon Sunday, Feb. 9, the McCormack-Nagelson Tennis Center went crazy. After every point, people in the crowd clapped, and players on the court congratulated their teammates. It was not unusual for yelling to happen after winning a set, the team clapping and shouting the score. This electric atmosphere was critical in spurring William and Mary (3-0) to a clean 7-0 sweep of Longwood (2-2).
“There was nonstop communication between each member of the team,” Tribe sophomore Daniel Pellerito said. “What we are trying to do is create a loud atmosphere no matter what side you’re on. … We try to get the crowd involved as much as possible and make it a whole match for us.”
In doubles, Pellerito faced off the Lancers’ third pairing with his partner, junior Finbar Talcott. The two used powerful serves and clean returns to defeat the Lancers 6-2. The pair forced mistakes with extreme ball spin — effectively using Lancer Guilherme Sergio’s power against him. The movement of the ball was essential to sliding a point past their opponents.
Sophomore Joseph Brailovsky and junior Ruo Chen took the second pairing to a quick 6-2 finish as well. They won every point in their final game, but regardless of statistics, they looked like a winning pair. From their intensity in volleys to their fantastic anticipation, their win can be attributed to great chemistry and communication on the court. Brailovsky, in particular, showed his prowess in recognizing narrowly out-of-bound balls, and many of the Tribe points in the match came from converting on these borderline mistakes. Brailovsky also had a beautiful serve, dangerously full of movement, which allowed Chen to convert points on their opponents’ weak attempts to counter the serve.
The longest double match was by far the first pair, who played a grueling 13 game set. In the end, the Tribe narrowly pulled away, 7-6, winning the set on senior Brenden Volk’s ace. Volk and his partner, freshman George Davis, seemed evenly matched with Longwood’s Guilermo Cagigas and Amadeo Blasco at first. Blasco quickly identified a weakness in the Tribe’s formation and riddled the court with short cross-court shots. Cagigas shot low, but powerfully right above the net; the angle was tough to counter. But, after a few dropped points, the Tribe figured out how to defend against these shots and force volleys. Volk shone in the high-energy plays but allowed Davis to close out the points. Davis was an expert in placing the ball just within bounds, tiring out their opponents or bouncing the ball right out of reach.
The Tribe swept doubles, with a clean score of 3-0. The team worked hard to make sure every player was supported in his sets. Volk attributed his win in doubles to the atmosphere and momentum on the court.
“We were a very cohesive team out there,” Volk said. “There’s a lot of energy going around, and it just helps when we have nine guys who are buying in to what we do. When you see that going on next to you, the tennis takes care of itself.”
Brailovsky took the top spot in singles. Like before, Blasco tried tripping Brailovsky up with cross-court shots. Occasionally, Brailovsky would over-anticipate the ball, but often, his eye for the trajectory served him well. High-energy volleys characterized this match, and Brailovsky’s precise placement was key in ending them. He pulled the first set 6-4. In the second set, Blasco was able to capitalize on a tiring Brailovsky. They switched sides at the 4-3 mark, and Brailovsky looked to his teammates.
“The energy was just spread everywhere,” Brailovsky said, echoing the sentiment of Volk and Pellerito. “I can hear Pells on court five when I’m on one, and he’s going crazy. When Brenden is slacking a little bit, I start going crazy; when Fin’s footwork is going down, I go crazy.”
He played — and won — several more games as his teammates slowly finished their matches. Finally, he was up 5-4, 40-15 on the game. His teammates clapped, and he served an ace to win the match.
The other singles matches finished more decisively. Talcott bested Sergio 6-3 twice to take the No. 2 match. His speed was untouchable; he used the full court. When Sergio lobbed a ball lazily over the net, Talcott ran into the service box to slam the ball and snatch a point. He took a lead early on and hustled through volleys to keep it.
Volk finished first with two 6-1 sets to best his Lancer opponent. Chen had a shaky first set with a close game distribution, but eventually dominated his No 6. match 6-4, 6-3. Pellerito overcame an early deficit to sweep his opponent, 6-2, 6-2. Even Davis, who played the 13-game match, won his first set 6-1. He switched several times, trading off a powerful, two-hand grip for a one-handed spin, to take Cagigas down 6-4 for the second set.
“We got a lot of momentum going after the doubles,” Volk said. “We were all feeling good, the morale was high, and it was important to really come out there and just get on them early. And we carried that into singles on every single court.”
The Tribe’s early season set-up has served it well so far. With its sweep of doubles, the Tribe dominated for a final score of 7-0. Its last game, against Norfolk State, was also a clean sweep. When asked about the encouraging state of the team early on, Brailovsky focused on the Tribe’s capacity for growth.
“We’re off to a really good start, for sure, but there’s a lot to build off,” he said. “We’re building, and everyone’s still getting better, day by day.”
Feb. 15, the Tribe will continue its home-stand and host George Washington. Both teams will be defending win streaks.