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Men’s tennis prepares for ACC Tournament

The Cavaliers will take on Louisville in tough tournament seeding

<p>Gianni Ross is one of several freshmen who could play a crucial role in how Virginia performs in the ACC Tournament.</p>

Gianni Ross is one of several freshmen who could play a crucial role in how Virginia performs in the ACC Tournament.

The Virginia men’s tennis team has faced a tough slew of defeats recently, winning only one out of the past seven matches. Part of the reason for such a dismal record was a back loaded schedule, in which the Cavaliers played some of the toughest teams in the nation on the road and No. 1 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (22-2, 11-1 ACC) at home. Virginia was recently able to pull out an upset victory over No. 22 North Carolina State (16-7, 6-6 ACC), but has been unable to put together any other victories since late March.

The Cavaliers will now be faced with taking on the No. 8-seeded Louisville (15-10, 5-7 ACC) Thursday — their second match up with the Cardinals this season. The first match, which was in Louisville in March, did not go well for Virginia, with the Cavaliers losing in a 6-1 blowout. Despite this, the Cavaliers still have a decent chance at beating Louisville and extending it’s postseason. The loss to Louisville in March featured many close matches not featured in the final score. Two of the singles matches played, namely those played by freshman Kyrylo Tsygura on No. 6 and junior Aswin Lizen on No. 2, went to a third set. Freshman Gianni Ross’s match was also close on No. 3, losing to the first set in a tiebreaker and the second set 5-7 to Louisville’s senior Nicolas Rouanet.

Combining the deceptively close nature of their previous loss with a neutral court matchup, the Cavaliers’ have a puncher’s chance at beating the Cardinals on Thursday. Even with a victory here, however, Virginia is still in the dreaded 8/9 slot. This means they will have to again face the undisputed No. 1 Wake Forest, which has been ascendant all season. Wake Forest also beat Virginia 6-1 this season, but loss was in Charlottesville, making it the first time since 2002 that Virginia has lost to the Deacons at home. Wake Forest also has two of the top 10 players in the nation in their starting lineup, with sophomore Borna Gojo (No. 6) usually playing on the No. 1 court and junior Petros Chrysochos (No. 4) playing on the No. 2 court.

Critical for the Cavaliers on Thursday will be the performance of sophomore Carl Söderlund and Lizen. These players are the lone upperclassmen in the starting lineup, and are the only returning members from NCAA Championship winning teams in seasons past. While Virginia has an impressive array of talent in it’s large freshman class, it lacks experience, especially in the pressure of the team tournament setting. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have plenty of experience with a single sophomore, Parker Wynn, as the youngest player on the starting six. This notions that any path Virginia may have to victory on thursday requires wins from both Soderlund and Lizen in singles.

Even if Söderlund and Lizen are able to pull off wins for the Cavaliers, they will still need two of the freshmen to contribute. Of that class, Matthew Lord and Gianni Ross have been the most consistent. Ross has a personal record of 13-7 this season on courts No. 2 and No. 3 while on courts No. 4 and No. 5, Matthew Lord has a record of 12-6.

Tsygura could also hold the key for victory over the Cardinals. He has won three of his past four singles matches as Virginia has lost three of it’s past four. Tsygura was the source of Virginia’s lone match win over Wake Forest, and also won on the No. 4 court during Virginia’s road loss at No. 31 Virginia Tech (17-6, 7-5 ACC). Tsygura has gone through cold spurts this season, but could be a major factor in the ACC tournament given the right matchups. A final point of concern for Virginia may lie in doubles, which Virginia has struggled with this season. Virginia has the 34th best doubles team in the nation in Lizen and Ross, but has struggled to win the overall doubles point. Coach Andres Pedroso, however, is optimistic about winning doubles points in the tournament.

“We’ve played close in nearly every doubles point that we’ve played, one or two points against every team we’ve played,” Pedroso said. “We’re always thinking about making changes and adjusting things and seeing how we can put out the best teams there for us, but we’re close, and I think our doubles is actually good. We just need to do a little better job with winning big points, and playing two guys.”

The Cavaliers will play at 2:30 Thursday at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C.. The match will be televised on the ACC Network.