It has certainly been an impressive season for Coach Andres Pedroso and his No. 5 Virginia men’s tennis team, as the Cavaliers have yet to lose a game in the ACC this year.
The last time Virginia lost a match was back in February to Illinois in the National Team Indoor Championship Tournament. Since then, the Cavaliers haven’t looked back, and they are now the winners of 12 straight — all in-conference. It is without a doubt that Virginia is the current favorite to win its 12th ACC Championship.
With a win against Notre Dame Friday, Virginia clinched the top seed in the ACC Tournament.
As the first seed in the tournament, the Cavaliers will either play eighth-seeded Georgia Tech or ninth-seeded Miami Friday afternoon to kickstart the weekend in Rome, Ga, with the semifinals and finals taking place Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
With the exception of an unbelievable collapse or a set of hapless injuries, this Virginia men’s tennis team should cruise through the early rounds and be looking to bring home the title. However, there is still stiff competition that could derail championship aspirations. Which teams are most likely to knock off the Cavaliers?
The Wolfpack could challenge Virginia as a sleeper team early on in the tournament. As the fourth seed in this year's tournament, the Cavaliers will likely see them in the semifinals.
It is arguable that NC State offered Virginia its most competitive conference match of the season. In their head-to-head matchup, the Cavaliers won 5-2, but the Wolfpack offered tough competition in singles.
Graduate student Alexis Galarneau is a talented No. 1 for the Wolfpack. An ATP-ranked player, he handled Virginia graduate student Carl Söderlund with two straight sets in their last match.
Although this team has struggled lately, don’t be surprised if they play a close one against Virginia.
North Carolina offers another potential roadblock to a championship for the Cavaliers. The Tar Heels are the only team in the ACC that can say they beat Virginia, defeating the Cavaliers 4-2 on their way to winning the 2021 National Team Indoor Championship Tournament.
However, injuries have plagued North Carolina since then, as sophomore Rinky Hijikata and senior Josh Peck — two regulars in the starting lineup — have both been out for the past month.
Without a full team, the Tar Heels have lost to Virginia 6-1, and most recently to Wake Forest 5-2, as they limp into the ACC Tournament.
Still, the country hasn’t forgotten the Indoor Championship title this year, as the Tar Heels are
currently ranked No. 3 in the ITA rankings. North Carolina is the highest ranked team the Cavaliers could face in the ACC bracket.
A fully healthy North Carolina team is the best team Virginia would play in this tournament. However, even if North Carolina has a full team, those players might not be at full strength — which could influence the outcome of the match.
Wake Forest, who is perhaps the most dangerous of the North Carolina teams, has emerged as a top ACC men’s title contender alongside Virginia. The Demon Deacons made their loudest statement of the season with a road sweep of North Carolina, 5-2, and Duke, 4-0.
Wake Forest is currently sitting at 11-1 in conference play, with the team rising to their highest ranking of the year, climbing to No. 10 in the ITA rankings. Having earned the second seed in the tournament, the Demon Deacons are playing with plenty of momentum coming into the final week of the regular season.
There is a plethora of talent on this team with three nationally ranked players in the starting lineup — including No. 11 sophomore Henri Squire.
In their only meeting of the season Virginia defeated Wake Forest 5-2. Strong doubles play helped the Cavaliers early, as the singles matches were all tight and competitive — including three matches with tiebreakers.
As the hottest team entering the tournament, not including Virginia, the Demon Deacons could be a problem if both teams make it to the finals.
Despite the gauntlet of teams in the state of North Carolina and the ACC, Virginia has been able to defeat every team this year. With strong doubles play early and gritty performances from singles, there is no reason this team can’t bring another ACC title back to Charlottesville.