The Cavalier men’s tennis team will take on the Mercer Bears at home this Friday in its first outdoor match of the season.The Cavaliers have so far had a season with mixed results, losing matches against many of the larger schools they have played against. However, they have won three of their past four matches over the past two weekends. Mercer (7-1, 0-0 Southern), while a non-Power Five school itself, has one of the best records the Cavaliers (5-3, 0-0 ACC) have faced all season. Boasting wins over Florida Atlantic (7-4, 0-0 USA) and Louisiana at Lafayette (9-5, 0-0 Sun Belt), the Bears are on a seven-win streak going into Friday’s match. Especially critical to Mercer’s success has been senior Sam Philp. Philp, who went 17-8 in singles matches last season, made news last year when he became the first ITA nationally ranked men’s tennis player in Mercer history. Philp has not played for the past two games, but has been 4-1 so far in the regular season this year. Should he play Friday, his experience could cause a troubling matchup for the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers themselves are coming off a two-win streak, including an impressive 6-1 rout of Liberty (3-5, 0-0 Big South). Especially impressive so far this season is junior Aswin Lizen, who has been a reliable source of won singles matches, even in matches where the Cavaliers as a whole were beaten. Lizen is a holdover from the championship team and 2016-17 — one of the greatest Virginia tennis teams ever assembled. Lizen’s influence will be especially important in the coming game, as the Cavaliers, while talented, are much younger and under the direction of a new head coach, Andres Pedroso. However, despite a rough start, things are starting to come together for Virginia. Over the past four games, freshmen Matthew Lord and Gianni Ross, star prospects coming into the season, have started winning key matches over older and more experienced players. Perhaps the best example of this comes from Virginia’s recent win against Monmouth (1-8, 0-0 MAAC). The Hawks were able to win two matches against the Cavaliers, but Lord and Ross, playing on courts No. 4 and No. 2, respectively, won both of their matches in straight sets, all but clinching the match for the Cavaliers in what could have been otherwise a disheartening upset. A final problem that Virginia could face on Friday comes at the No. 6 singles court. The Cavaliers have had an incredible amount of difficulty performing there this season, winning there only once so far this season across eight games. That win, which came against Liberty, featured freshman Kyrylo Tsygura on the No. 6 court, playing lower than usual due to the return of sophomore phenom Carl Söderlund. With Söderlund potentially out for this game, however, Virginia could again be facing a crisis on No. 6. The Cavaliers will return to their home court on Friday, Feb. 23 at the Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville at 11:00 a.m.