Men's tennis opens outdoor season
No. 10 Virginia to host Baylor, Notre Dame, Liberty
The Virginia men’s tennis team will return to the Snyder Tennis Center outdoor courts this weekend for the first time this year. The Cavaliers will play a slew of challenging contests, with a Saturday matchup against Baylor and Sunday matchups against Liberty and ACC foe Notre Dame.
After being handed their first loss of the season in the ITA National Team Indoors semifinals by Ohio State, the No. 10 Cavaliers (6-1, 1-0 ACC) seek to climb back atop the rankings and resume their historically ultra-consistent play. Though the loss to the undefeated Buckeyes put an end to the team’s 36-match win streak, a school-record, coach Brian Boland remains upbeat.
“Honestly, I think we turned that into a positive already,” Boland said. “The players are really excited about playing this weekend. Sometimes adversity is when you can truly test your team. I think the guys have handled it well and the guys have responded tremendously.”
Senior Alex Domijan and junior Mitchell Frank lead the team with 7-0 and 9-1 records, respectively, while sophomore Ryan Shane hopes to extend his personal winning streak to nine matches. Former ITF World Junior No. 13 freshman Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and sophomore Mac Styslinger will also fight to keep their perfect doubles record intact, currently sitting at 5-0.
Though a top recruit and USTA Player Development program product, Kwiatkowski’s early success has come as somewhat of a surprise to the coaching staff. With his unblemished doubles record and a singles record sitting at 3-1, his contributions have not gone unappreciated.
“He’s a little bit further ahead of schedule than I expected at this point [after] sitting out almost six months with a match injury,” Boland said. “He’s really focused and [pays] attention to detail. I just couldn’t be happier with Thai and what he’s brought to the the program.”
The eighth-ranked Bears (8-2) aim to begin their upcoming five-match road trip with another victory after sweeping Mississippi at home by a 4-0 margin last Sunday. Junior Tony Lupieri has been crucial for the team in recent weeks at the four, five and six spots. He currently rides an individual undefeated streak that dates back eight matches to Jan. 25.
Meanwhile, No. 6 Notre Dame (10-3, 0-1 ACC) will seek retribution for its loss to Virginia earlier this month. The Irish were the first opponents to steal points from the Cavaliers this season, but ultimately fell 4-2 in the first round ITA National Team Indoor Championship clash.
Frank, who suffered a doubles defeat along with his singles victory in the previous matchup, realizes the Irish will present a genuine challenge for Virginia.
“Notre Dame is a really tough school,” Frank said. “One of the kids I grew up with and kind of mentored a little bit plays number two for them. They all compete extremely hard. Maybe they’re not the most talented team, but they make up with it in grittiness and offer a lot of value for the ACC. They’re a good team.”
This will also be the first stop for Notre Dame in their four-match away tour, and the second ACC matchup of the season for both Virginia and Notre Dame.
As the only unranked team slated for competition against the Cavaliers this weekend, Liberty (4-4) ought to be the least daunting opponent, though the Flames will arrive coming off a decisive 5-1 victory against Morgan State at home Feb. 21.
Match time for Baylor is set for noon Saturday, and Notre Dame and Liberty are set for Sunday at noon and 6 p.m., respectively.