The No. 1 Virginia men's tennis team travels to Florida this weekend for a pair of matches against No. 29 Miami and No. 46 Florida State. The Cavaliers have high hopes that the trip to the Sunshine State will help them continue their stellar season after a challenging previous weekend of play.
Virginia (18-0, 3-0 ACC) enters the weekend with its undefeated record still intact after a hard-fought victory against No. 6 Texas. The Cavaliers struggled across the board as Virginia's top four singles players all dropped the first sets of their respective matches. Nevertheless, the slow start did not rattle the experienced Cavalier team, which fought back to take five of the six singles matches and secure a 5-2 victory against the Longhorns.
"The first half an hour was kind of interesting," said senior Michael Shabaz, who was named ACC Player of the Week for the second consecutive week and fourth time this season. "I was the only one kind of getting through my match the way I thought most other guys were going to get through their matches. But I [had] a lot of belief in our guys, and that literally within 20 or 30 minutes the entire match could change, and it did."
The Texas tilt also illustrated other potential problem areas for the Virginia team, which dropped all three of its doubles matches in Austin. The doubles struggles would seem to be a disconcerting sign for the Cavaliers moving forward, but coach Brian Boland maintained he is focused on the big picture rather than the recent losses.
"We've gone through a few peaks and valleys with it, but again, if you're going to sustain any success, that's part of the process," Boland said. "I know that in May we'll be playing where we need to."
The Cavaliers also can feel confident about topping Texas without the services of star freshman Alex Domijan, the No. 2-ranked singles player in the country. Domjan earned a wild card to the qualifying tournament of the Sony Ericsson Open, an ATP professional event, Monday in Miami. Domijan lost to Julian Reister of Germany, 6-2 6-3, but the event constituted an important opportunity for the freshman's development.
Domijan returns to Florida this weekend, but this time with his Virginia teammates, as the road-weary Cavaliers, who last played in Charlottesville Feb. 11, continue their lengthy stretch of away matches. The team must again reshuffle its roster to include Domijan and also continue to adjust to the beginning of its outdoor schedule, but Shabaz said he sees these factors as positive changes.
"I think now I'm starting to really like it because I'm putting a lot into my fitness, so I feel like it's harder for guys to play out of their minds for two hours [on outdoor courts]," Shabaz said. "I feel like if I'm solid with my game, I definitely have the edge against most guys. No matter who we play against or who our lineup is, we feel comfortable with each guy."
Miami (9-4, 3-0 ACC) enters the weekend fresh off an impressive home win against ACC rival Clemson despite dropping out of the top 25 this week. The Hurricanes have won six of their last seven matches and again will try to tap into their home-court advantage to spring the upset against the top-ranked Cavaliers.
Florida State (6-8, 1-2 ACC) will work to end its three-game losing streak - and win just its second match in its last nine - this weekend against Virginia. Senior Vahid Mirzadeh, the No. 26-ranked singles player in the country, leads the Seminoles at No. 1 singles, but after a somewhat turbulent showing in Austin, Boland is confident the Cavaliers will respond well against their ACC foes this weekend.
"I think our concern each and every day is just trying to get better," Boland said. "The results will take care of themselves"