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Jan. 26, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

It may be early in the season but it’s easy to see that Lynn Blau and Elizabeth Kilborn are on the path to a magical season.

From the moment they take the court, it’s obvious that Blau, a senior from Luxembourg, and Kilborn, a junior from Marietta, Ga., have something magical going on.

The roommates and close friends both can feel it. It’s a special connection other teams simply don’t have.

“We just have a sense of what’s going to happen out there,” said Kilborn. “When I’m at the net and she’s at the back, I know where she’s going to take the ball, I know when she’s going to lob it, I know when she’s going to drive it at the net person.

“We know what serves we want to hit in each situation. When Lynn’s serving, I’m normally the one calling the serve, because I know if she’s in a tight situation, I know which serve she’s more comfortable hitting, and she knows the same for me. I know when she wants to go for it and be aggressive. That just comes from playing so many matches together. It’s really cool to have that partnership out there.

“On the court we have total trust in each other,” she added. “We can set each other up at the net. Lynn’s got great speed and great hands at the net. So I feel like we complement each other very well as a pair out there.”

“We’ve been playing together for two years now,” said Blau. “Even off the court we’re great friends, and that helps create chemistry on the court. We know each other so well. I know what shot’s going to come off her racket. I can expect what’s coming from her every time she hits the ball. That really helps for a doubles pair.”

The pair has been unbeatable thus far. In five matches, they are 5-0, and have held opponents to five or fewer games in four of their matches. Among those left in their wake are Georgia’s team of Kate Fuller and Lauren Herring, ranked No. 60 in the nation.

Their 8-1 win last Sunday over Memphis’ Mariya Slupska and Stefanie Mikesz, was their fifth of the season, surpassing their single-season total as a team in either of the previous two years, as they were 4-7 in 2009-10 and 4-10 in 2010-11.

Head coach Bryan Shelton is enjoying watching the duo.

“It is fun,” said Shelton. “They know what’s going to happen before it happens. They read the play, they know what their partner’s thinking and they get ahead of the play. So that’s fun when you’re one step ahead. It’s like playing chess, and you’re a move or two moves ahead of your opponent.”

Blau and Kilborn have been moves ahead of their opponents in singles as well, as Blau is 4-0, having dropped only two sets — both second sets, followed by overpowering 6-2 series-clinching thirds — while Kilborn is 4-1, bouncing back from her first loss on Saturday, a hard-fought three-setter against No. 52 Lauren Herring of UGA, with a resounding 6-3, 6-1 victory over Mikesz, who is ranked No. 51 the following day.

The duo’s hot play will play a key role this weekend as the Yellow Jackets seek to earn their sixth straight berth to the National Indoors, which take place in Charlottesville, Va., Feb. 10-13.

Tech’s first match begins 2 p.m. at the Moore Center against Georgia State. Should the Jackets advance, they’d face the winner of the William & Mary/South Carolina match at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Should they fall to GSU, they’ll play at 10 a.m. against the William & Mary/South Carolina loser.

Tech has won 20 of the 24 matches all-time in the series with Georgia State, and is riding a streak of eight straight wins and 17 out of 18, but the Jackets know history won’t really come into play against the Panthers — especially since the schools haven’t met on the court since 2005. They’re casting those numbers aside, kind of like they’re doing with their No. 13 national ranking.

The mentality Shelton is pushing is that the rank is nice to have, but it’s meaningless if the team doesn’t perform.

“Preseason rankings mean nothing to us, because you haven’t proven anything at this point,” he said. “The rankings are based on what happened the year before. We know that a lot should change in a year. If things haven’t changed, you aren’t getting better, and you’re probably getting worse. We hope we’re a lot better than we were last year. We feel that we should be a much-improved team and that we’re developing and getting better, and that’s our ultimate goal, to continue to get better each day.”

Kilborn feels there’s nothing to be gained from poll watching, and thus never pays attention to them.

“Some girls will look at them more often than others. I don’t really look at them,” she said. “It’s tough, when it’s in your head and you know the other team is higher ranked than you or you know that you’re supposed to beat that team. It’s very humbling that they put us high in the rankings. At the same time we just want to take care of every match and not really focus on numbers or statistics or the name of the team that we’re playing or the name of the person that we’re playing. We just want to focus on the game.”

Blau was on the same wave-length as Kilborn.

“Of course, it’s nice to be highly ranked, but we talk more about what we have to do to perform the way we want to perform as a team, to reach our goals, which never have to do anything with ranking,” she said. “We always talk about ranking as just a number. It does tell you where you are, but we’re working toward doing well in the ACC and then preparing for the ACC Tournament and the NCAAs. We won the ACC Tournament being the seventh seed, the lowest seed ever, which kind of shows it’s just a number.”


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