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Top-ranked Cavaliers seek to extend ACC streak

Road trips to Wake Forest, NC State should press Boland's squad after lopsided wins last week

Within the ACC, the No. 1 Virginia men’s tennis team encounters few real threats. With the exception of its conference opener, a thrilling 4-3 win against No. 8 Duke, the top-ranked team has blown through its opponents with ease. But the Cavaliers, perennial contenders for the NCAA title, use every match — no matter how outmatched the competition may be — as a chance to improve. This weekend’s pair of road duals with No. 25 Wake Forest and No. 36 NC State should hardly prove an exception.

“We want to keep getting better,” coach Brian Boland said. “We have a chance to develop … regardless of what the score is during a regular season match. That’s our focus, and we’ve done a great job of that.”

Virginia (15-0, 4-0 ACC) is coming off a pair of routs against overmatched conference rivals. After demolishing in-state rival Virginia Tech 7-0 last Thursday, the Cavaliers easily dispatched Boston College on the road Saturday — highlighting Boland’s uncanny ability to motivate his juggernaut of a team.

“I’m proud of the way the guys competed last Saturday,” Boland said. “They certainly were a better team than Boston College, but they went out and competed hard every single point, and kept a level of humility that I think is important.”

Senior Jarmere Jenkins, the team’s captain, also applauded the team’s effort.

“It can be hard to come out there and play those types of matches,” Jenkins said. “The guys stayed really competitive and we were able to just go out there and take care of business.”

The Demon Deacons (14-5, 3-1 ACC) and the Wolfpack (12-6, 5-1 ACC) should cause Virginia considerably more trepidation. At No. 60, senior Amogh Prabhakar is Wake Forest’s only ranked singles player, and he and fellow senior David Hopkins form the team’s No. 77 doubles pair.

Like the Cavaliers, the Demon Deacons enter Saturday’s match after three straight ACC wins. In the last few weeks Wake has topped NC State 5-2, Georgia Tech 6-1 and Miami 6-1.

“Wake Forest is one of the best in the conference,” Boland said. “They have some veterans on their team who will challenge us but we’re looking forward to it.”

Saturday’s contest will also match up familiar faces: Wake Forest head coach Tony Bresky worked under Boland for eight years as an assistant coach and associate head coach. After a year as head coach at Cornell, the program’s best season in history, Bresky moved back to the ACC to take over at Wake Forest. In his time at Virginia the team accumulated seven straight ACC regular-season championships and as many appearances in the NCAA tournament, and Bresky’s knowledge of the Cavaliers’ inner-workings could impact the proceedings.

For NC State, no players are individually ranked, and junior Sean Weber and senior Dave Thomson post the team’s only rank in doubles at No. 16. Still, the Wolfpack are riding a five-game win streak which included an upset of No. 18 Florida State. In addition, they boast the reigning ACC Player of the Week, sophomore Austin Powell.

Even against such respectable competition, the depth of Virginia’s roster should prove too vaunted to overcome. The oft-praised trio of Jenkins, junior Alex Domijan and sophomore Mitchell Frank rarely misses a beat, but they hardly carry the team unilaterally. When the top of the lineup falters, the likes of senior Julen Uriguen and freshmen Mac Styslinger and Harrison Richmond pick up the slack and win the match, as evidenced against Duke.

In the end, however, Boland is trying to warn his players against committing the cardinal sin of any prohibitive favorite — taking opponents for granted.

“We have a lot respect for Wake Forest and NC State, so we’ve been working hard on all aspects of our game,” Boland said. “I know that we’ll be ready to go.”

Opening serves are set for 12 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

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