Men’s tennis rebounds after first loss of season
Virginia dismantles Clemson following week of adversity
The Virginia men’s tennis team lost their first match of the season to a tough Wake Forest team Friday, 5-2, before coming back and sweeping Clemson at home Sunday.
In front of a rowdy crowd in Winston-Salem, N.C., No. 1 Wake Forest (20-1, 7-0 ACC) edged out the Cavaliers (18-1, 5-1 ACC) to win the doubles point, and then went on to win four of six singles points. However, the Cavaliers put up a strong fight against the Demon Deacons — the Cavaliers took three of those four Deacons singles wins to three sets, and fought out one tiebreaker. The Deacons extended their winning streak to 10 games, while simultaneously putting an end to Virginia’s long-standing regular season winning streak — the last Cavalier regular season loss came to North Carolina on April 1, 2016, putting the streak just one day shy of a year.
However, a few days later, the Cavaliers came out and played as well as they have all season against Clemson (8-11, 1-6 ACC). On court two, junior Collin Altamirano won a hard-fought match against senior Daffra Sanon of Clemson. After finding himself down early in the first set, Altamirano battled back and ultimately took the first set before winning the match 6-4, 6-2. Meanwhile, on court one, senior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski soundly beat junior Alex Favrot 6-3, 6-2.
The past week had been especially difficult for the team — between injuries, coach Brian Boland’s announcement of his departure from Virginia and playing the No. 1 team in the nation, Virginia had a lot on its plate.
Following the match, Kwiatkowski noted the adversity as well as the concentration needed to overcome it Sunday.
“It was a really tough week we had, and it was an emotional week so we were all a bit emotionally drained going into that match,” Kwiatkowski said. “We went out there and we fought our best and didn’t come out on top, but it’s good when you’re in regular season to face adversity like that, so that come May we’re going to be ready.”
After putting forth a great effort against Wake Forest, Virginia showed no signs of fatigue or trouble against Clemson Sunday. With a few players fighting off injuries and coming off the first loss of the season — and the first loss since last year’s ACC Tournament matchup against Wake Forest — some were unsure of how the Cavaliers would respond.
Boland was thrilled with the Cavaliers’ response Sunday and particularly admired the team’s mental toughness and all-around solid effort.
“We played with great discipline and focus,” Boland said. “I think the guys felt physically better today … I love where our team’s at right now. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way that they’re practicing and approaching things and facing the adversity, and so I think we’re in as good of a place as we’ve ever been.”
Other highlights included a 6-2, 6-2 win by senior J.C. Aragone and a 6-4, 6-4 victory from junior Alexander Ritschard. The team was also helped by a large crowd that showed lots of support throughout the match.
Boland was particularly thankful for the fans and support through not only this season, but throughout his tenure at Virginia.
“We love it,” Boland said. “I mean, there’s nothing better than playing at home in front of what I consider the best fans in college tennis … We really hope the fans support us the rest of the way, and playing the Hokies on Friday will give them an opportunity to do that.”
Kwiatkowski — who only has three remaining matches at Snyder — shared Boland’s sentiments regarding the home atmosphere.
“I mean, when it’s a beautiful day and as nice as this … It’s tough to be in a bad mood when you’re out here,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s always better to play at home, especially after playing in an environment like Wake.”
After the match, Boland also talked about freshman Carl Söderlund. Söderlund has been out with an injury for roughly six weeks, but is expected to play this weekend.
Moving forward, Virginia will face off against in-state rival Virginia Tech Friday at 3 p.m. at Snyder Tennis Courts. After that, the Cavaliers have two more home matches before finishing out the season with three road contests.