The Virginia men’s tennis team split their most recent weekend matchups, falling to No. 5 Kentucky, but recovering well against Radford. The Wildcats (8-0, 0-0 SEC) proved to be too much for the Cavaliers (7-1, 0-0 ACC), winning a tight battle that was a rematch of last year’s national championship match. However, the Cavaliers held their heads high and bounced back against the Highlanders (0-3, 0-0 Big South) to secure a win last weekend.
Match 1 - Kentucky
Virginia started off the match strong, jumping out to an early 1-0 lead on the doubles court. The duo of junior Iñaki Montes de la Torre and freshman Måns Dahlberg won 6-3 to get Virginia the upper hand. However, closing the doubles point proved to be a challenge for the Cavaliers. The graduate student pair of Bar Botzer and Ryan Goetz fell 6-3, meaning it was on the junior team of Jeffrey von der Schulenberg and Alexander Kiefer to close out the doubles point. However, in a tight 6-4 battle, the Cavalier duo fell, and the early doubles point went to Kentucky.
Virginia needed a response on singles courts to weather the early storm. Kiefer lost the first singles match, 6-7 (5-7), 3-6, but Montes won his match 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) to split the first two matches.
The sure-handed von der Schulenberg won his match 7-5, 6-4 to give the Cavaliers an advantage midway through the singles matches. Freshman Douglass Yaffa followed that up with a comeback 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win to give Virginia a 3-1 lead on singles courts. However, losing the doubles point meant that the team would need to win at least one of the remaining two matches.
Dahlberg fell in three sets, 6-2, 5-7, 1-6, meaning the match would be decided at the hands of Goetz. The graduate student took the first set 6-3 but dropped the second set 2-6. In the final set, the two players took it to 6-7 on the set, requiring a tiebreaker. In heartbreaking fashion, Goetz fell 4-7 in the tiebreaker, and the Wildcats escaped with a narrow victory in the match.
Match 2 - Radford
After suffering their first loss of the season at the hands of Kentucky, all eyes were on the talented Virginia squad to see if they would respond in its first-ever matchup against Radford. They did that and more.
On doubles courts, a new duo of Goetz and Yaffa won 6-1, before the duo of Montes and Kiefer won 6-3 to close down the doubles point early. The pairing of Dahlberg and von der Schulenberg was challenged by the Highlanders, but the point was left unfinished at 4-5 given their teammates’ success.
The Cavaliers took the early lead and did not look back. All six Virginia players on singles courts — Montes, Goetz, Kiefer, von der Schulenberg, Yaffa and graduate student William Woodall — all won their matches, with Woodall being the only one to even drop a set. Woodall made up for it in a third-set super tie-breaker that he took handily by a score of 10-1. Virginia dominated from start to finish, taking the match 7-0, and improving to 7-1 on the season.
The Wildcats dealt Virginia an early blow, but the Cavaliers fought with them down to the wire and bounced back without missing a beat against Radford. The schedule will continue to throw challenges Virginia’s way, and the next few matches will determine whether its repeat championship aspirations and top spot in the rankings are warranted.
The Cavaliers will look to continue their momentum into next weekend, where they will await the No. 2 team in the country, Ohio State. The match will be Feb. 11 at noon at Boar’s Head in Charlottesville.