Men's tennis opens season with four wins
Strong freshman clas paces Cavaliers in victories against Elon, Indiana, BC, Navy
In their first action of the spring season, the No. 1 Virginia men’s tennis team cruised to four victories in four matches this weekend at the Boar’s Head Sports Club.
The defending NCAA champions defeated Elon and Indiana as part of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, before going on to beat Boston College and Navy in a pair of regular season matches. Picking up right where they left off last year, the players took every possible point during the weekend.
“There’s always a lot of nerves at the beginning of the season,” freshman Thai-Son Kwiatkowski said. “I think we came out and handled them pretty well. We all played close to our top abilities, and that’s pretty good for the start of the season. Everyone’s hitting good, everyone’s excited to be on the court, it’s just a good atmosphere.”
The first two days of matches set out to determine which team would advance to ITA National Indoors. Cavaliers (4-0, 1-0 ACC) certainly made their case for the spot, as they downed Elon (2-1) and Indiana (1-2) in two perfect matches, ending with a score of 40-0.
“I wouldn’t say we’re expecting to win [ITA Indoors], but we’re obviously confident in ourselves and we believe we have the opportunity to win it,” senior Justin Shane said. “We have a good shot at winning it.”
The team returned to the courts Sunday for the second two matches of the weekend. Virginia played Boston College (0-2) in each team’s first ACC match. The Cavaliers went 2-1 in the double portion to take a 1-0 lead. They then won all six singles matches to secure a 7-0 victory. In doing so, the team nabbed its 107th consecutive ACC win, a record going back to 2006.
“We came out with a ton of energy and were excited to play,” coach Brian Boland said. “What I’m most impressed with is their focus throughout the entire weekend, not only in how we approached things but when we got on the court. They’re a team that really believes in one another — very unselfish — and we’re off to a great start.”
In the weekend’s final match, the Cavaliers shut down the visiting Midshipmen (3-2) for an 8-0 victory. Across the 13 sets played, only once was Navy even able to take three games before falling.
The Virginia freshmen came to Charlottesville as the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation according to Tennis Recruiting Network, and though the expectations of them as part of the nation’s No. 1 team are daunting, the freshmen have made it clear they’re ready for the challenge.
“Of course it’s a lot of pressure, but you also have a lot of pride in what you play for,” Kwiatkowski said. “When you put the shirt on and it has the V, then you know people are going to try to play their best against you.”
For someone who had not played in a competitive match in months after sitting out the fall season, senior captain Alex Domijan looked right at home on the court. Already a two-time MVP at ITA Indoors, he paired up with fellow captain Justin Shane as Virginia’s first doubles team. He also played at second singles against Elon and Indiana before moving up to first singles when Frank sat out against Boston College and Navy. Domijan, with his intimidating 6-foot-7 frame and powerful swing, set a strong example for the rest of the team as he won every set he played during the weekend in both singles and doubles.
“The guy is one of the best ball-strikers in the world,” Boland said. “He’s had one of the most incredible careers of anyone that’s ever played the game of collegiate tennis, and I know he’s hoping to finish it in the best way possible, most importantly for his team. To Alex, team always comes first and he’s one of the most unselfish men I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.”
The team returns to action Feb. 14 when the Cavaliers play in the ITA National Indoor Championships in Houston. Regular season action resumes on March 1 against Baylor in Charlottesville.