Over the past seven seasons, the Virginia women's tennis team has the most successful era in school history. That success has coincided with Mark Guilbeau taking over the program. Since his arrival in Charlottesville in the summer of 2005, the Cavaliers have made their first two trips to the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament, cracked the ITA top 10 for the first time, reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament six times, and had four year-end top 25 rankings.
Last year the Cavaliers matched a pair of records set a year earlier, tying the school with 20 wins and reaching the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The team was ranked a school record No. 6 nationally during the season and the team had two NCAA Singles Championship participants for the second consecutive year.
The 2010-11 season was a milestone one for Virginia. The Cavaliers won a school record 20 matches, including a school-record seven ACC wins. Virginia reached the NCAA Round of 16 for the first time school history and was ranked in the top 10 nationally for the first time. The Cavaliers upset No. 3 Baylor in the first round of ITA National Team Indoors to reach the quarterfinals of that event and post their biggest win in program history. The team also set school records with two NCAA singles and two NCAA doubles selections, including Lindsey Hardenbergh, who reached the round of 16 in singles to become UVa's first All-American. Guilbeau was honored as ITA Atlantic Region Coach of the Year for those accomplishments.
When Guilbeau arrived at Virginia, the program was coming off a six-win season, the worst in 15 years. He quickly changed the culture of the program and success quickly followed. The 2005-06 Cavaliers went 14-10 and finished the year ranked No. 23. It was the first year-end top 25 ranking for the program since 1993. The year was highlighted by several benchmark wins. The first came when Virginia topped No. 19 TCU 4-3 for the team's first top 20 win in three years. A week later, a 5-2 win over No. 10 Duke marked the first victory over a top-ten opponent in school history. A win at No. 17 Wake Forest followed, but the biggest win of the season came in final home match of the year. The Cavaliers upset No. 6 Miami, the eventual NCAA runner-up. Virginia ended the season with a 6-5 ACC record, setting a new record for conference wins in a year, and Guilbeau was rewarded with ACC Coach of the Year accolades. The Cavaliers received the first bid to the NCAA Tournament in three years and advanced to the second round with a 4-3 win over Alabama in the opening round.
"The 2005-06 season should be one of the most positive steps for this program," Guilbeau said. "That season was a level of success that this program hasn't had in a while, maybe ever, especially in terms of big wins and some of the individual accomplishments. It should be the most positive thing that has happened to this point, and should be one of the reasons why we continue to move in a good direction."
In Guilbeau's second season in Charlottesville, the 2006-07 Cavaliers went 12-12 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. It marked the first time in school history that Virginia had won an NCAA Tournament match in consecutive years. In his third season, the Cavaliers finished with a 10-13 record, including a win over No. 15 Florida State. In 2008-09, Virginia went 14-10 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years, falling to eventual National Champion Duke. In 2009-10, the Cavaliers ended the year ranked No. 25 nationally, finishing with a 15-10 record. The program hosted an NCAA Regional for the first time as the Cavaliers reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years under Guilbeau.
Prior to arriving at Virginia, Guilbeau has established himself as one the country's top collegiate tennis coaches while building the program at Kentucky. All nine of his teams at Kentucky made the NCAA Tournament, including reaching at least the round of 16 in each of his last four seasons. He took over the Wildcat program in 1997 that was coming off two straight losing seasons and consecutive 10th place finishes in the Southeastern Conference, and took the program to new heights over the next nine years. His Kentucky teams went 154-89, as he coached nine All-Americans, 11 All-SEC honorees, 10 NCAA Singles and eight NCAA Doubles participants.
In 2006, Guilbeau led Kentucky to the best season in school history. The Wildcats had a 26-6 record, setting a school record for wins in a season, were ranked a record No. 2 nationally, reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, and the reached the finals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Kentucky won its first SEC regular season title as Guilbeau was named ITA National and Southeast Region Coach of the Year in addition to SEC Coach of the Year accolades.
In each of his final four seasons in Lexington, Guilbeau's Kentucky teams won an NCAA regional and finished the season ranked in the top 16 nationally. In 2004, he took a team of eight newcomers, including seven freshmen to the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual National Champion Stanford. Also, Aibika Kalsarieva became the first UK player to reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship that season. The 2003 team went 23-8 and finished second in the SEC as Guilbeau earned SEC Coach of the Year honors. That season, the UK duo of Amy Trefethen and Sarah Witten became the first doubles team in school history to reach the NCAA Doubles Championship Final. In 2002, the Wildcats won a NCAA Regional for the first time in school history and had a doubles team reach the NCAA Doubles semifinals.
It took little time for Guilbeau to make his mark at Kentucky. In just his third season in Lexington in 1999, he led the program to a No. 18 national ranking and a fourth-place finish in the SEC, the team's highest finish in five years. From that point, Guilbeau had established Kentucky as a perennial top 25 team and one of the top teams in the SEC.
"I was very fortunate to begin my head coaching career at Kentucky and in the SEC," said Guilbeau. "It was an extremely challenging process, especially with the commitment and accountability that was placed on bringing the program to the elite level in collegiate tennis. Along with many great team and individual accomplishments, I am very proud to say that every goal established for our program at Kentucky was met. There were many challenges - all of which were approached with the greatest desire, thought, intensity and work ethic. None of the accomplishments would have been possible without the support of many wonderful people in Lexington; a great athletic administration; several very strong and commited assistant coaches; and most importantly, so many outstanding players and dedicated young ladies. The energy that was produced from working with such driven groups of players made it a pleasure to be a coach at Kentucky."
Prior to taking over the program at Kentucky, Guilbeau found success as an assistant coach at Georgia for five seasons. While in Athens, the Bulldogs won the 1994 NCAA Championship, the 1994 and 1995 ITA National Team Indoor Championships, and finished ranked in the top five nationally each season. He helped coach eight All-Americans, four national tournament doubles champions and one NCAA Singles champion during his time at Georgia. While at Georgia, he was also the Head Tennis Professional at Jennings Mill Country Club in Athens.
"The years I spent in Athens were very valuable to me as a coach and a teacher," said Guilbeau. "The experience I gained at Georgia has helped me greatly in my coaching role. The people at Georgia and Jennings Mill Country Club were extremely kind and supportive. I am very fortunate to have had such a great opportunity."
Guilbeau feels day-to-day instruction and workouts are a very inspiring and rewarding part of the job. While he elieves strongly in spending time improving each player's weak areas, at least 50 percent of court time is spent focusing on strengths and weapons, while additional time is devoted to physical conditioning and strength development.
"An emphasis I have for each athlete is that she will develop a confident style of play centered around her individual strengths, and that she will reach the highest fitness level of her life," Guilbeau said. The idea of giving 100 percent every day is the heart of Guilbeau's coaching philosophy. He firmly believes both progress and enjoyment come from that type of work ethic.
"Success must be earned...it does not come from luck," Guilbeau said. "You have to work hard and take care of all the details."
Not only does Guilbeau demand a great deal from his team; he demands a lot of himself as well.
In addition to his collegiate coaching experience, Guilbeau has attended the 1992 Australian Open as a coach and worked with players on the USTA Satellite and WTA Tours.
A native of Lafayette, La., Guilbeau played collegiate tennis at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. He finished his undergraduate degree at Southwestern Louisiana in 1988. He served as a graduate teaching instructor at Southwestern Louisiana and at Georgia before receiving his master's degree in health promotion and behavior from Georgia in 1992.
Guilbeau has run 10 marathons and has a personal best of 2:40:00. Most recently, Guilbeau completed the 2004 Boston Marathon. He also helped raise more than $50,000 for the American Cancer Society by playing a doubles tennis marathon in 1991. Along with three others, Guilbeau set a Guinness Book World Record by playing doubles for 125 consecutive hours.