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Virginia men’s tennis enters the NCAA Championships with high expectations

The Cavaliers appear ready to make a run

<p>The Cavaliers will host the first and second rounds of the tournament on the heels of a conference tournament title.</p>

The Cavaliers will host the first and second rounds of the tournament on the heels of a conference tournament title.

The Virginia men’s tennis team will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships this weekend. The men’s team drew the seventh seed in the tournament and will share hosting duties with the fifth-seeded women’s team in their respective championships.

Season in Review

The Cavaliers (22-5, 12-0 ACC) are currently riding a 17-match winning streak after having won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles. They are one of the hottest teams in the country and will look to continue their momentum.

Virginia was a team that displayed remarkable resilience as they endured a five-game losing skid early on in the season. They were able to refocus and go undefeated in conference play, and this experience should prove to be valuable as they enter elimination play in the tournament.

Looking at the Bracket

The Cavaliers are in a very favorable position in the bracket, and they will open play at home against Fairleigh Dickinson. The Knights (10-11, 3-3 NEC) posted a 1-8 record on the road this season and should not prove to be too much of a challenge for Virginia. Look for the Cavaliers to put this match away quickly and advance to the second round.

Assuming they advance, Virginia would play the winner of Pennsylvania and Virginia Commonwealth University. Both of these teams struggle on the road as well, with a combined 10-9 away record. The Quakers (19-5, 6-1 Ivy League) have not played a match since Friday, so the Rams (21-6, 0-0 Atlantic Ten) likely have the edge in terms of playoff experience and momentum.

Virginia Commonwealth’s match against the Cavaliers was canceled early in the season, but that matchup has a good chance of crystallizing in the second round of this tournament. However, Virginia will likely also be too much for the Rams, who despite a similar record with the Cavaliers, lack Virginia’s experience, momentum and strength of schedule. This should be another quick match in their favor. The Cavaliers are in a prime position to advance out of the Charlottesville regional and into the super regional, which they would also host.

If Virginia can advance out of the super regional to Champaign, Ill. where the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be played, they will likely have a date with the No. 2 seed and defending national champions Florida.

If this match does come to fruition, it will be the most difficult test of the season for the Cavaliers, but all of Virginia’s losses this season have come from teams seeded one through four in this tournament, including the Gators (23-2, 12-0 SEC). Barring any major upsets, the Cavaliers will be facing opponents that they are familiar with as they get farther into the bracket and are a much more experienced and developed team than they were at the beginning of the season.

Final Predictions

Last year, Virginia exited the tournament far earlier than expected, with a third-round loss to 12-seeded Southern California. This year’s team is made up both of seasoned veterans who were on the team for that loss and graduate transfers with tournament experience. Graduate student Bar Botzer even has a championship to his name from winning the 2018 title with Wake Forest. 

Experience is going to have to carry the Cavaliers through this tournament if they hope to make a run. So far this season, Virginia has not had any trouble overlooking inferior opponents, likely due to their experience and leadership. Because of this, a lack of focus in the early rounds should not be an issue. The Cavaliers have all of the tools they need to carry them to the quarterfinals.

If Virginia does wind up having a date with Florida, it might be too much for them. Florida’s raw talent and recent championship experience is likely to overwhelm the Cavaliers. However, if the Gators are upset earlier along the way or if Virginia can find it within themselves to take down the defending national champions, they have a great chance of winning the title and will be a team that nobody wants to face. Florida is strong but not unbeatable, as proven by their two losses, including one against a Texas squad that ranks beneath the Cavaliers. In a tightly contested matchup this February, Virginia fell to the Gators 4-2, but they have developed into much tougher competition since their shaky start to the season. To prevail, they will need a championship-level effort from each member of the team and a bit of luck on their side.

This is a team that is battle-tested and championship ready. Cavalier fans should be ready for this team to go far in this tournament. By relying on their veteran leadership, their focus and a little bit of luck, they might just win it all.

Virginia’s run will begin with a first round matchup Friday against Fairleigh Dickinson streaming on the TennisOne App at 4 p.m.