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Cavaliers take on Oklahoma, Texas

Squad continues adjustment to outdoor portion of schedule against No. 6 Longhorns and No. 32 Sooners

In January and February, college tennis teams compete indoors on air-conditioned courts, where the only variables from match to match are the size of the crowd and the quality of the opponent.

In March, however, teams move outdoors, where results prove more unpredictable. Players may have to contend with rapidly changing conditions such as wind gusts that push even the most well-struck shots wide and long, and humidity that makes marathon matches all the more grueling.

The No. 2 Virginia men's tennis team will face No. 32 Oklahoma and No. 6 Texas this weekend in the third and fourth matches of its outdoor season after rolling to victory against then-No. 28 Baylor and then-No. 56 Louisiana State last week. Freshman Justin Shane, who hasn't lost so far this season at the No. 6 singles spot for the Cavaliers, knows the team will need to adjust its shot selection depending upon the weather.

"Your game style has to change with the conditions," Shane said. "You can't just go from indoors hitting big all the time and then doing that outdoors with all the conditions like wind and sun."\nThe Cavaliers' Sunday opponent, Texas (11-3), was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Team Indoors in early March and has struggled with making the transition to outdoor courts. The Longhorns were upset by then-No. 30 North Carolina, 5-2, March 8. Later that week, they faced then-No. 7 Southern California, the two-time defending national champion, and lost 5-2 again.

Senior Ed Corrie, Texas' highest ranked singles player at No. 33 in the country, will challenge senior Michael Shabaz at No. 1 singles. Shabaz, the country's No. 8 singles player, was selected to travel to Chile with the United States' team for the Davis Cup - professional tennis' version of soccer's World Cup - where teams from countries around the world compete against one another throughout the year. At the ITA National Indoor Championships, Shabaz defeated the then No. 1-ranked singles player in the nation, Tennessee's sophomore Rhyne Williams, 6-2, 6-2.

Although Shabaz and the rest of Virginia's singles players have excelled, the Cavaliers still are working to find their groove on the doubles court. They have realigned their doubles pairings twice in the past month, splitting Shabaz and junior Drew Courtney to shore up teams at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots during the ITA Indoor Championships. Shabaz and Courtney reunited during the past two outdoor matches, assistant coach Scott Brown said, to provide them with wins to maintain their No. 3 doubles ranking. During those matches, though, the Cavaliers switched their pairings at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles to provide those players with experience teaming with different partners.

"To win the doubles point, you want to have three good teams rather than one great team and two other teams that are - I don't want to say so-so, but where it's a little uneven," Brown said. "Where it's even, you have a better chance of winning the doubles point."

The Cavaliers still are searching for their ideal lineup, and likely will change pairings again as the season progresses.

"We haven't found the perfect lineup," Brown said. "The lineup at Indoors worked well, but basically, we're moving them all around so if we need to change it come NCAAs at the end of the year, there's no surprises there."

Friday's match against Oklahoma (8-2) will challenge Virginia's singles players, as senior Ionut Beleleu, ranked No. 34 in the country, likely will face Shabaz. Two other players on the Sooners' roster are ranked in the nation's top 125, but Oklahoma lacks the depth of Virginia, which boasts five players in the top 40 alone.

The Cavaliers will complete their 11-match road trip next weekend against No. 25 Miami and No. 45 Florida State. The match this weekend against Oklahoma begins at 5 p.m., and the match against Texas Sunday starts at noon.