No. 2 men’s tennis prepares for weekend matchups amidst Boland’s announcement
Virginia looks to avenge last year’s ACC Championship loss
After Virginia men’s tennis coach Brian Boland shook up the program by announcing his departure at the end of the season, the team is nevertheless looking forward to continuing its strong play into the weekend and beyond. The Cavaliers head down to Winston-Salem, N.C. Friday to take on No. 1 Wake Forest (17-1, 5-0 ACC) before heading back to Charlottesville to play Clemson (8-9, 1-4 ACC).
According to the ITA, Wake Forest is the highest-ranked team in the country. Like Virginia, they are undefeated in the conference and boast a number of solid wins, including Oklahoma State, Texas and North Carolina. The Deacons’ one loss came to then-No. 3 Ohio State Feb. 19 — a team that the Cavaliers beat 4-1. Some of their biggest assets include sophomore Petros Chrysochos — the ITA No. 2 singles player in the country — and junior Skander Mansouri, ranked No. 14.
The Deacons’ match against Virginia marks the beginning of five-straight Wake Forest home matches, before they finish out the season with three road contests.
Two days later, Virginia will play another conference foe in Clemson at Snyder Tennis Courts. Clemson started the season with seven-straight wins, but the team has recently failed to produce. Following its initial seven wins, the team has gone 1-9 and is currently on a seven-game skid. The team’s lone conference win comes against Miami. Traditionally, Virginia has been very dominant against the Tigers in tennis — Clemson has not beaten Virginia in over a decade.
All this is amidst a huge announcement by Boland that he will be leaving to become the head of men’s tennis for USTA Player Development. Citing family reasons and the desire for a greater challenge, Boland will leave Charlottesville with a legacy of greatness. Just a few of his innumerable achievements include a 140-game ACC winning streak — the longest conference winning streak of any sport — 11 ACC championships and four-straight NCAA finals appearances. All of these feats he accomplished in 16 seasons.
Although the matchup against Wake Forest is one of the toughest tests Virginia will encounter all season, Boland is committed to maintaining the team’s high level of play.
“It’s critical that over the course of the next 10 to 12 weeks that I have the opportunity to do everything I can, first and foremost, to support the players on our team and be focused on them and our goals that we have in front of us for the remainder of the season,” Boland said. “I want to make sure that every detail is attended to and make this program great and help it to continue at the highest level. I really believe that we can.”
Senior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski shared much of the same sentiments following Virginia’s matchup against Duke last weekend.
“Well, we know that our main goal is May, so we’re just working on all the little things to make sure that we peak in May,” Kwiatkowski said. “The season is a marathon.”
Last year, Virginia beat Wake Forest twice in the regular season before losing to them in the ACC Championship, leaving a desire for revenge in many of the players. In light of the announcement and the matchup against one of the best teams in the land Friday, maintaining focus this week is paramount.
Boland showed no indication of letting up on the team or losing focus Wednesday.
“We have a lot of work to do and we are going to make that our number one priority,” Boland said. “We are going to be more deliberate, attentive to detail and focused than ever on making sure that we maximize ourselves each and every day and have the best opportunity to achieve our goals.”
Senior Luca Corinteli echoed much of what his coach said, and made his intentions clear.
“There’s two ways you can look at it,” Corinteli said. “You can obviously be sad and sulk at the fact that Brian will not be around next year. But it is a pretty mature group of guys and this is just going to motivate us even more to do everything in our power to compete as hard as we possibly can and send Brian out on the right note.”
Corinteli also showed tremendous gratitude for Boland’s guidance, and highlighted the impact he will leave on countless lives.
“U.S. Tennis just made the best decision in the world,” Corinteli said. “I don’t think there is anybody in the world that could take on the job better then Brian will. Obviously he has his expertise in tennis and his leadership abilities, but there are certain characteristics that Brian preaches to us every day that we are so lucky to hear about. The positive impact that Brian has on so many people is incredible.”
The Cavaliers’ match against Clemson marks the beginning of a four-game home stand. Moving forward, the Cavaliers will play in-state rival Virginia Tech April 7.