No. 5 men’s tennis reaches ACC finals, falls to Wake Forest 4-2

After an under-.500 season in the ACC last year, the young Cavaliers return to the finals after a two-year hiatus

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Junior Carl Soderlund's singles victory sealed No. 5 Virginia's defeat of No. 9 North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

This past weekend, No. 5 Virginia men’s tennis (21-4, 10-2 ACC) headed to Cary, N.C., to compete in the ACC Men’s Tennis Championships as the No. 2 seed at Cary Tennis Park. The Cavaliers last won an ACC men’s tennis title in 2017 on their way to their fourth national championship. 

As Virginia was a top-2 seed, the Cavaliers received a double-bye and faced No. 7 seed Florida State (18-10, 6-6 ACC), in the third round — a team Virginia previously defeated 4-1 in Tallahassee, Fla.

Junior Carl Soderlund clinches the ACC semifinal victory over North Carolina.

Against the Seminoles, Virginia got off to a quick start, winning the doubles point convincingly. Following the doubles matches, the number one, two and three players for Virginia — junior No. 5 Carl Soderlund, freshman No. 82 Brandon Nakashima and senior Henrik Wiersholm, respectively — all posted straight-set victories to send the Cavaliers into the semifinals against No. 9 overall and No. 3 seed North Carolina (18-6, 9-3 ACC).

Virginia previously beat North Carolina the week before in Charlottesville by a score of 4-2, but North Carolina proved to be a tougher task this time around, given the stakes of the competition. The Tar Heels started the match off with a straight-set doubles victory and a singles victory by sophomore No. 38 Benjamin Sigouin over Nakashima in the number-two spot, putting the Cavaliers in a 2-0 hole.

Virginia quickly bounced back, with three-straight victories by captain and senior Aswin Lizen in the No. 6 spot, sophomore Gianni Ross in the No. 4 spot and Wiersholm in the number three spot. However, after freshman Ryan Goetz fell in three sets to Tar Heel senior Blaine Boyden, it was up to Soderlund — the team No. 1 — to send Virginia back to the ACC finals. 

Soderlund and No. 19 junior William Blumberg went to a decisive third-set after Soderlund fought off Blumberg in a second-set tiebreak, with Soderlund coming out on top 6-4 and sealing the victory for the Cavaliers.

In the ACC finals, Virginia was pitted against a familiar foe, No. 4 overall and No. 1 seed Wake Forest (29-3, 12-0 ACC), a team the Cavaliers defeated 5-2 in Charlottesville in February, but fell to 6-1 in Winston-Salem in March. 

Unfazed by the higher-ranked Demon Deacons, Virginia started the match on a strong note, winning a crucial doubles point, as well as the No. 6 spot thanks to a straight-set victory by Lizen. However, Wake Forest would proceed to win four straight matches without dropping a set, becoming the 2019 ACC men’s tennis champions by a score of 4-2. 

Virginia now moves onto the NCAA Championships, with the first and second rounds starting May 3. 

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