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Squad looks to avenge loss against Kentucky

No. 1 Virginia team prepares to host weekend set against Terrapins, Wildcats

When it comes to regular-season revenge, the Virginia men's tennis team has only one opponent on its mind: Kentucky.

The Wildcats are the lone squad to earn a regular-season victory against the Cavaliers since 2007, and they snapped Virginia's 63-match regular-season winning streak with a 4-3 win in Lexington last season.

Saturday, No. 1 Virginia will face No. 12 Kentucky at the Boar's Head Sports Club in a rematch of last year's contest. The Cavaliers also will open their conference schedule Friday evening against No. 71 Maryland (3-0).

Virginia coach Brian Boland described last season's loss against Kentucky as a "wake-up call" that enlivened his squad just before the pivotal National Team Indoor Championships, in which the Cavaliers ultimately defeated four top-20 teams to take home the title. But the loss also exposed weaknesses in a lineup that would, for the third consecutive year, obtain the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament only to be denied the national championship. The veterans who have led those past three teams to the tournament - seniors Michael Shabaz and Sanam Singh - are now joined by freshmen Alex Domijan and Justin Shane, both of whom have been impressive in the early goings this season.

"I really don't feel that this team is the same kind of group as last year's," Boland said. "This team seems to have an urgency each and every day it comes to practice. That was one of the most impressive things about this group."

Kentucky (6-0) is led by junior Eric Quigley, the nation's No. 2-ranked singles player, who made short work of Singh during last year's contest and likely will face Shabaz at No. 1 singles. In the final of fall's All-American tournament, Quigley faced Domijan, who had whipped through the main draw without dropping a set. Domijan won the match, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, and said in an interview after practice Wednesday that the hard-hitting Quigley, who plays close to the baseline and hits balls on the rise, will meet a similarly aggressive player in Shabaz.

"Shabaz is playing well; I'd bet on him," Domijan said. "I doubt there's going to be many long rallies in that match."

Virginia's doubles pairings have changed considerably since being beaten squarely by Kentucky last year. After losing both their respective double matches against the Wildcats, Shabaz and junior Drew Courtney joined together and went on to win the NCAA doubles title and earn a No. 3 ranking at the start of the spring season. Domijan and sophomore Jarmere Jenkins, who will play at the No. 2 doubles slot, are currently ranked No. 10 in the nation. None of Kentucky's doubles teams are nationally ranked, and all three of the Wildcats' pairings lost during a Jan. 25 match against No. 46 Indiana.

"As always, if we can own the doubles point, we're a really hard team to beat," Boland said.

Boland added that having the home crowd - ranked first in attendance last year - on the Cavaliers' side Saturday night will help energize his players.

"We've had so much success at home thanks to our incredible support that we get from the Charlottesville community and the student body," Boland said. "It's been the best in college tennis for a long time now, and hopefully we have a great crowd this weekend against Maryland and Kentucky."

The Cavaliers last faced Maryland March 19 and swept that match, 7-0. This year's Maryland squad, which Boland said was "much improved" compared to last year's team, now boasts three nationally ranked singles players, including junior Maros Horny, a transfer who is ranked No. 36 and likely will play Shabaz at the No. 1 singles slot.

The match against Maryland starts Friday at the Boar's Head Sports Club at 5 p.m., and the match against Kentucky starts at 6 p.m.