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Squad tops Duke, UNC

No. 1 Cavs win season

On a day when players struggled amid unpredictable wind gusts and chilly weather, freshman Alex Domijan scored one of his most impressive victories this season. With fans packing the stands behind him, the nation's No. 2-ranked singles player dominated off the serve, firing aces past Duke's senior Reid Carleton with frequency and panache and ending points before they even started.

"I think that set up everything for me," Domijan said of his serve. "I think he lost a lot of belief, I'd say, because he was having to work a lot harder in his service games, and I was serving really well."

Domijan led the Virginia men's tennis team (22-0, 7-0 ACC) to a 6-1 rout of the No. 10 Blue Devils Friday, a team the Cavaliers beat three times last season. Though Carleton is the nation's No. 8-ranked singles player, he was unable to penetrate the game of Virginia's 6-foot-7 phenom, losing, 6-2, 6-2. The Cavaliers also toppled No. 17 North Carolina Sunday, 5-2, earning their 70th consecutive ACC victory and 85th consecutive victory at home.

On the court next to Domijan's, senior Michael Shabaz struggled mightily Friday against sophomore Henrique Cunha, the nation's No. 6-ranked singles player. The two played lengthy points - some during the first set lasted more than 20 shots - but errors during the tiebreak ultimately cost Shabaz the first set. Even as the crowd drew their attention to his match after Domijan's ended quickly, Shabaz still failed to find his groove, losing, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3.

"I'm sure [Shabaz] would've liked to have seen a different outcome, but his fight and his effort were certainly there," Virginia coach Brian Boland said after the match. "Certainly, with some different conditions, it would've helped him, but he understands, that's tennis, and regardless of the situation, you only can control what you can."

Fans played a key role in Virginia's victories this weekend. During the early months of the season, Virginia plays indoors at the Boar's Head Sports Club, a facility several miles from Grounds which can be difficult for students to access. This weekend marked the start of Virginia's outdoor season at home, and the on-Grounds venue drew a more vocal and boisterous student section, which players said helped carry them to victory.

Early during Domijan's match, though, students drew the chair umpire's ire after they taunted Carleton as he stepped to serve. The umpire warned the fans that they could not make noise as the Duke player was preparing to serve, but they continued, and the chair umpire told a security officer monitoring the match to eject them.

Boland stepped to the court to intervene, protesting the chair umpire's ruling as unfair. The coach walked towards the back fence and told the fans, "Guys, during the point, you can't cheer. After the point, cheer all you want."

They listened, and the chair umpire agreed to allow them to stay. The boost they provided after points helped lift Domijan to an easy victory.

"That was the best tennis crowd I've ever had," Domijan said after the match. "And I think it helped me a lot, and it probably hurt him a little bit. I know if they were cheering against me, that would probably affect me."

Despite the strong cheering section, however, the Cavaliers opened the doubles point against Duke (13-7, 4-1 ACC) with an 8-6 loss at the No. 3 spot. The Cavaliers rebounded with two tight wins at No. 1 and No. 2, but struggled again Sunday at doubles against North Carolina (10-5, 5-1 ACC). In that match, the Cavaliers managed to capture victories at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots, but at the No. 2 position, senior Sanam Singh and sophomore Jarmere Jenkins lost, 8-5.

"I think we need to put more time into doubles," Boland said after the Duke match. "We're not playing at the level that I believe that we can."

In singles play, Jenkins, who won a hard-fought three-set match Friday against Duke's freshman Fred Saba, lost in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, at the No. 4 position. And Shabaz, after losing in straight sets against Cunha, surrendered the second and third sets against North Carolina's sophomore Jose Hernandez, losing, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Shabaz's defeat occurred well after the Cavaliers already had clinched the overall win, however, as junior Drew Courtney, Singh and Domijan earned straight-set victories.

Virginia will face two more North Carolina squads next weekend, as they travel to N.C. State Friday at 3 p.m. and Wake Forest Sunday at 1 p.m. They will return home April 15 for their final two matches before postseason play begins.


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