Men's tennis wins eighth consecutive ACC Championship
Program wins 10th ACC Tournament title in 11 years, 121st consecutive ACC match
The No. 4 Virginia men’s tennis team continued its ACC dominance Sunday, defeating No. 9 North Carolina to clinch the program’s eighth-straight ACC Tournament title and 10th in the past 11 years. With the victory against the Tar Heels, the Cavaliers extended their conference match win streak to 121 matches.
The ACC boasts a lineup of six teams ranked in the ITA top-30, but none of the other five highly ranked teams were able to present much of the challenge for the Cavaliers (23-2, 11-0 ACC).
Holding the No. 1 seed, Virginia started off the weekend with a bye. In the quarterfinals Friday, the Cavaliers blanked No. 30 Florida State, 4-0. The Seminoles (18-11, 5-6 ACC) were never able to break the Cavaliers in the match and dropped every set.
Virginia followed the victory against FSU with another dominant showing Saturday against No. 13 Notre Dame in the semifinals. The Fighting Irish (19-9, 7-4 ACC), much like the Seminoles, were not able to challenge the Cavaliers. Virginia, led by No. 115 freshman Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, won the match 4-0. Kwiatkowski posted an impressive victory in straight sets at No. 5 against freshman Eddy Covalschi, 6-1, 6-0, and is now 15-1 on the season.
“The first-years have had significant impact and they will continue to play a significant role as we prepare for the NCAA,” coach Brian Boland said. “They have had an incredible impact on our program.”
In the finals against North Carolina (24-5, 9-2 ACC), Virginia dropped its first set of the tournament in the doubles portion of the match. That would prove to be just a small bump in the road, however, as No. 14 senior Alex Domijan bested No. 12 freshman Brayden Schnur in a pair of 6-3 sets and Virginia cruised to victory against the Tar Heels, 4-0, to clinch the tournament title.
The Cavaliers now turn their attention to defending their national team title in the NCAA Tournament, which kicks off May 9. Virginia won the crown last year by taking down UCLA in a 4-3 thriller that ended when No. 2 junior Mitchell Frank completed a comeback victory to clinch the program’s first team title.
“I think we are in a great position going into the NCAA Tournament,” Boland said. “We are really positive going into the NCAA and we are looking forward to working really hard over the next couple of weeks to prepare for the tournament because there is still room to get better.”
The only two matches Virginia lost this season were against No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 UCLA, each extremely close 4-3 losses. The loss to Ohio State occurred early in the spring season at the ITA National Team Indoor Tournament, while the UCLA loss came weeks later in early March.
Leading up to their outdoor match against the Bruins in Los Angeles, the Cavaliers were forced to move their practices indoor due to inclement weather.
“Those were tough situations we played in,” Boland said. “[For] UCLA, we traveled out there in tough conditions and hadn’t had a lot of preparation in order to play that match. In terms of Ohio State, we played them indoors and they played really good indoor tennis that week and hats off to them.”
The Buckeyes (30-3, 11-0 Big Ten) and Bruins (22-3, 6-1 Pac-12) also clinched their conferences titles during the weekend. Ohio State took down No. 12 Illinois to win the Big Ten and the Bruins upset No. 1 Southern California in the Pac-12 finals to clinch the conference title.
Along with UCLA, USC and Ohio State, No. 3 Oklahoma likely poses the greatest threat to the Cavaliers. For Virginia, the losses to Ohio State and UCLA serve as an extra spark going into the NCAA tournament.
“We’re more eager and hungry,” Boland said. “[The losses] humbled us a little bit, which I felt was positive and we have not lost since. [We] really improved during that time and we are hungrier than ever.”
Unlike last year, Virginia will enter this year’s tournament without Jarmere Jenkins, who graduated last May. Jenkins and sophomore Mac Styslinger teamed up last year to carry the doubles point for the Cavaliers, while also winning the NCAA doubles title in the process.
This season, Virginia has asked freshman Luca Corintelli to fill Jenkins’ vacated role as Styslinger’s doubles partner and the pair is currently ranked No. 54 nationally. In recent weeks, the anchor on the doubles side for the Cavaliers has been the undefeated No. 74 duo of senior Alex Domijan and sophomore Harrison Richmond.
Even though the Cavaliers are the defending national champions, it is very likely they will not enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed, a fact that does not faze Virginia according to Boland.
“We were not the No. 1 seed last year even though we went undefeated,” Boland said. “I don’t think that really has any bearing. It is about how well you perform and the best team will come out on top.”
Virginia is 39-14 all time in the NCAA Tournament.