Virginia won its sixth men’s tennis national title in the last 11 years this weekend in Orlando, Fla., defeating heavyweight after heavyweight in the process. The runner-ups No. 3 Ohio State defeated the Cavaliers on two separate occasions back in February — winning 4-1 in Charlottesville and then 4-0 at the ITA National Team Indoors. The second loss to Ohio State on February 19th would be the final time the Cavaliers lost this season as Virginia turned its season around and dismantled the Buckeyes for the championship.
Virginia went on an absolute tear to finish the season 30-4. It was a surprising underdog for a portion of the season despite being the defending national champion, but the Cavaliers overcame adversity and won another championship to solidify their second tennis dynasty of the 21st century.
Semifinals- Virginia 4, Texas 1
A semifinal victory over the No. 1 ranked Longhorns was Virginia’s 15th ranked win of the season, and earned yet another title appearance for the Cavaliers.
Juniors Jeffrey von der Schulenburg and Chris Rodesch — who won the ACC tournament MVP and who would eventually win the national tournament MVP —- won the first doubles match 6-1. Graduate student Ryan Goetz and junior Alexander Kiefer won their match 6-1 as well to clinch the doubles point.
The Longhorns’ Micah Braswell fought past von der Schulenburg to tie, but Virginia responded with three straight wins in singles matches to advance to the championship. Freshman Mans Dahlberg earned a comfortable two set victory —- while Goetz won his second and third sets after losing his first.
Kiefer was locked in a thrilling three set battle with Cleeve Harper after losing his first set. Exchanging points back and forth, Kiefer pulled out the match-clinching point to win a 7-5 tiebreaker.
Before the Cavaliers secured victory, two other doubles matches were also in their favor. Rodesch — who is ranked No. 9 nationally —- had a close lead in his third set against No. 1 Elliot Spizzirri. The No. 26 ranked junior Inaki Montes de la Torre also had a sizable lead against No. 28 Pierre-Yves Bailly in the third set when play stopped.
“Obviously, every match in the NCAA Tournament gets tougher and tougher, and Virginia deserves all the credit in the world today,” said Texas coach Bruce Berque.
Finals- Virginia 4, Ohio State 0
Riding the adrenaline of four consecutive postseason wins against elite ranked teams, the Cavaliers obliterated Ohio State after earning a single point against the Buckeyes in the regular season.
Rodesch and von der Schulenburg won their doubles match again, this time coming after a loss by Goetz and Kiefer. With a crucial opening point on the line, it would be Montes and graduate student William Woodall that earned the doubles point for Virginia.
Schulenburg continued his stretch of outstanding play, defeating No. 22 JJ Tracy 6-2 and 6-1 to give the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead. Rodesch then bested No. 24 Justin Boulais in their second meeting of the year —- the first singles victory for Rodesch against Ohio State in 2023 —-- to put the Buckeyes on the brink of elimination.
Against No. 11 Cannon Kingsley, Montes won his sets 6-4 and 6-2 to win it all for Virginia. Goetz was entering his third set against No. 34 James Trotter while Kiefer had a lead in his third set against No. 41 Alexander Bernard before play stopped.
Montes threw his racket to the sky in celebration as he was swarmed by teammates. Virginia is the only school in the ACC to have multiple national championships in men’s tennis. 2023 marks the third year in a row that Virginia has multiple national team championships. Men’s tennis joins the women’s swim and dive team, with other squads aiming to join them. The Cavaliers now own an incredible 33 national titles.
In addition to Rodesch winning the tournament MVP, the rest of the All-Tournament Team featured many other Virginia stars. Montes and Woodall were listed as the No. 1 doubles team, with Rodesch and von der Schulenburg right behind them at No. 2. Rodesch was also honored as the No. 1 singles player. Montes, Goetz and Kiefer in addition gave the Cavaliers four of the top five singles players of the entire tournament.
Rodesch’s turnaround since February mirrors the turnaround of the full team — entering the season with high expectations, struggling early and then playing practically perfectly en route to postseason glory. Coach Andres Pedroso has Virginia on top of the tennis world once again with no signs of stopping.