Top-ranked Tennis hosts Hokies
Cavaliers look to build momentum after big ACC opening weekend
The No. 1 Virginia men’s tennis team opened ACC play with a bang last weekend. The Cavaliers preserved their undefeated record with a tight defeat of No. 8 Duke followed by a thorough clobbering of No. 70 UNC, and they now look to continue their streak as they host No. 54 Virginia Tech Thursday.
Scores of 6-1 and 7-0 have been commonplace for the team all season, but last Friday’s match against Duke proved to be a test for the Cavaliers (13-0, 2-0 ACC). The Blue Devils (14-4, 2-1 ACC) arrived in Charlottesville hungry for revenge after losing to the Cavaliers in the ITA National Team Indoors and nearly earned it, but Virginia hung on for a 4-3 victory. Duke has spent significant time in the top 10 this season, and the challenge the Blue Devils presented came as no surprise.
“We respect everyone, so we definitely didn’t take Duke for granted,” associate head coach Andres Pedroso said. “We’re fine with 4-3 as long as we get the victory. We’d obviously like the score to be a little more in our favor, but as long as we get the victory, the guys compete hard, and we finish the match healthy, that’s all that matters.”
The Cavaliers began the match by winning the doubles point for the seventh consecutive match. Though the players and staff pride themselves on their ability to win a match with or without that initial boost, stifling Duke’s potent doubles lineup was certainly not insignificant. In singles, the Blue Devils’ No. 5 senior Henrique Cunha and No. 25 junior Fred Saba pulled out big wins on the first and second courts against No. 2 senior Jarmere Jenkins and No. 1 junior Alex Domijan, but the duo found relief from their teammates on the other courts.
“I thought the conditions were tough and some guys handled it better than others, but that’s why it’s a team sport at the end of the day,” Pedroso said, “When the top’s not there, the bottom’s there. [Freshman] Mac Styslinger and [senior] Julen Uriguen did a phenomenal job picking it up in singles there.”
With the teams tied at 3-3, the match came down to Uriguen on the sixth court, a familiar role for the senior — he and senior Justin Shane clinched the doubles point for the Cavaliers earlier in the day. Uriguen trailed in the first set but battled back to win the tiebreaker as well as his second set, securing the match for Virginia.
“[In a match-clinching situation] you don’t try to think a lot about what’s going on, you just try to focus on one point at a time and play to your strengths,” Uriguen said, “I just tried to make my serve and then start hitting a lot of forehands, and I was able to stay composed and get the match for us.”
Sunday’s contest against UNC (7-10, 0-4 ACC) was a different story for Virginia. The Cavaliers once again took the doubles point and ran into little trouble during singles play. At No. 3, Domijan bounced back from Friday’s defeat with two 6-1 sets against junior Nelson Vick. At No. 1, Jenkins also overcame his loss, topping No. 38 sophomore Esben Hess-Olesen 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and securing the 6-1 win for the Cavaliers.
“I definitely played better, and Jarmere played better,” Domijan said, “We came back and focused on our own games more than the match specifically. I think it’s good looking forward — we got our games back.”
The two weekend victories were the first conference wins for the Cavaliers this season, and they will look for one more this weekend. Virginia hosts in-state rival Virginia Tech (10-4, 2-1 ACC) Thursday, though the rivalry has been historically one-sided — the Cavaliers lead the Hokies all-time by a stunning 51-8.
Tech also faced Duke and North Carolina last weekend, but with markedly different results. The Hokies lost 7-0 to Duke Sunday, but managed to narrowly defeat North Carolina 4-3 Friday. Virginia Tech has just two ranked players — No. 55 freshman Amerigo Contini and fellow freshman No. 81 Andreas Bjerrehus. The two form the Hokie’s one ranked doubles team at No. 20. Virginia Tech may be a step down in competition from this past weekend, but the Cavaliers are making sure not to overlook the Hokies.
“Virginia Tech is always a team that we get [excited] for because it is Virginia Tech,” Pedroso said, “We know that the fans and everyone at U.Va. are always ready to give them a hard time, but they had a good win against UNC last weekend.”