Men's tennis clobbers No. 5 Oklahoma
Virginia continues unbeaten season, earns 6-1 win; Domijan, Frank dominate doubles
The No. 1 Virginia men’s tennis team began a busy month with a 6-1 win against No. 5 Oklahoma Sunday at the Boyd Tinsley Courts at the Boar’s Head Sports Club to remain undefeated this season. The Cavaliers’ last outing, a 4-2 win against rival No. 2 Southern California in the championship match of the ITA National Team Indoors, came almost two entire weeks prior and the team was a bit rusty as a result.
“We didn’t play as well as I was expecting us to play at home, but perhaps it was from the long layoff,” Virginia coach Brian Boland said. “We felt really good about what we’ve been practicing and the guys have been working hard and staying focused. We came out with the energy and competed hard, but we just didn’t execute and play very well, which is okay.”
Virginia (7-0, 0-0 ACC) won the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead, but the Sooners (8-3, 0-0 Big 12) put up a fight on the first two courts. At No. 1, senior Jarmere Jenkins and freshman Mac Styslinger battled the No. 52 team of senior Costin Paval and sophomore Dane Webb, who proved ready for the challenge posed by Virginia’s second-ranked pair and led the match 8-7 before the Cavaliers clinched the point.
On the second court, the No. 45 team of junior Alex Domijan and sophomore Mitchell Frank fell behind early to the No. 42 duo of freshman Axel Alvarez Llamas and redshirt junior Guillermo Alcorta. But Domijan and Frank maintained their composure to mount a comeback, winning 8-6 and locking in the doubles point for Virginia after the No. 37 pair of senior Julen Uriguen and junior Justin Shane neatly dispatched Oklahoma’s senior Lawrence Formentera and junior Peerakit Siributwong 8-4.
“Those guys are tough, and they have a really good resume in doubles,” Jenkins said. “Our goal was just to come out and compete today. Our last match was two weeks ago, so we just worked our way back into it.”
The theme of singles play was remarkably similar to that of the doubles matches — Virginia’s bottom three dominated their opponents while the top half of the lineup each faced formidable challenges. No. 24 freshman Ryan Shane downed Llamas in straight 6-2 sets on the fourth court, while No. 8 Styslinger followed with a 6-2, 6-3 victory against Formentera at the No. 5 slot. Uriguen, in his first singles match since Jan. 26, took a pair of 6-1 sets against Oklahoma’s Siributwong on the sixth court, extending Virginia’s lead to 4-0 and clinching the match early.
“Oklahoma is a good team,” Boland said. “They’re scrappy, and we knew they were going to be really challenging up top, so our bottom three guys really did a great job for us today. This team has often been told that we have this one, two, three punch, but [our depth] is what makes a team.”
Boland’s much-lauded upper lineup also fared well against the Sooners, but not without a fight. No. 1 Domijan faced No. 61 Alcorta on the second court, where the players split the first two sets, each earning 6-4 victories. Domijan rebounded after losing the second set, however, to take a definitive 10-3 win in the third set, pushing the Cavalier lead to 5-0.
Meanwhile, No. 3 Jenkins matched up against No. 39 Paval on the first court and dropped the first set 2-6. But a 6-4 win in the second set forced a tiebreaker, which Jenkins won handily, 10-2.
No. 65 Frank, playing on the third court, was the only Cavalier to fall on the day, but he gave a remarkable effort in the process. While his teammates were all well into their second sets, Frank had clawed back from a deficit to tie the Sooners’ Webb at 6-6 in a seemingly never-ending first set. Webb eventually took the tiebreaker 7-6(6) and the ensuing set 6-2 to tally Oklahoma’s only point, but Frank’s persistence despite a number of setbacks earlier in the season bodes well for the rest of the year.
“Mitchell dropped that one point, but he competed incredibly hard,” Boland said. “To his defense, he’s a human being. He’s had a lot of long layoffs, he had that knee injury and surgery, and then he got nicked up so he had to take most of this week off. I’m not making excuses for him and he wouldn’t want me to, but he needed this match and he’ll be way better because of it.”
The Cavaliers’ schedule has been abnormally sparse in the early season. While they may have shown kinks against Oklahoma because of it, the low amount of matches has also allowed players to reach a degree of fitness that sustains long, competitive battles, like Sunday’s.
“It’s definitely paying off, especially in the tougher matches,” Styslinger said. “With each team we play, I could have a long three sets, so that’s definitely when the fitness matters.”
But Virginia will not be lacking in match time going forward this season: they play eight matches throughout the rest of March, including four in the span of just one week. The month will provide them with a chance to iron out whatever problems may remain, and given the talent and fitness the team already shows, the men’s program should only improve.
“There are certainly areas of each player’s game that they didn’t execute well today so that’s something that we can work on,” Boland said. “But the things that mean the most to me are competing hard, preparing incredibly well and doing everything we can to stay composed throughout the match. They did all of those things, but we just didn’t play well, but all in all I’m not sure that we should expect anything else because we haven’t competed in a while.”
The Cavaliers begin their brutal spring break at No. 26 Baylor March 11, followed by trips to No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 15 Texas and No. 17 Illinois, the site of the 2013 NCAA Championships. Virginia will return home March 22 to commence ACC play, hosting No. 4 Duke at the Snyder Tennis Center.