No. 3 Virginia men’s tennis had two games on the road over the weekend, facing No. 1 Ohio State Friday and No. 16 Kentucky Sunday. The Cavaliers (5-3, 0-0 ACC) failed to topple the Buckeyes (8-0, 0-0 Big Ten) and lost 7-0, then consequently struggled to recover from the hard loss, failing to clinch the winning point against the Wildcats (6-1, 0-0 SEC) and losing 4-3.
Match 1 — Virginia 0, Ohio State 7
Virginia traveled to Ohio State Friday evening for an intense rematch of the 2023 NCAA Championship final. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers didn’t repeat their victory and fell 7-0 to the Buckeyes.
Doubles play started at 6 p.m. with graduate students James Hopper and Edoardo Graziani on the top court and senior Jeffrey von der Schulenburg and sophomore Douglas Yaffa on court two. Both duos were defeated 6-3, giving Ohio State the first point of the matchup.
As both teams moved to singles play, the Cavaliers were looking to make up the lost point and take the lead. However, with two of its top singles players gone for various reasons — senior Chris Rodesch is competing in the Davis Cup and senior Iñaki Montes is currently out for an injury — Virginia struggled to clinch victories.
Courts six, three, five and four all fell relatively quickly, with Virginia fighting to win sets but having trouble building the momentum needed to do so.
Schulenburg played at the top court in his singles matchup — his sixth time to do so in his career. His matchup against Ohio State fifth-year Justin Boulais was close for the majority of play, but he ultimately lost 7-5, 6-4.
Freshman Dylan Dietrich’s match on court two was the last to finish. He lost his first set in a tiebreaker, while the second set was not as close as Dietrich lost 6-3. This gave the Buckeyes their seventh point of the match and a definitive victory against the Cavaliers.
Coach Andres Pedroso, while disappointed with the loss, saw this as an opportunity for reflection and future redemption.
“Well, that was a humbling loss for our team,” Pedroso said. “The Buckeyes were a lot better than us today. We will find out a lot about this team over the coming weeks with how we respond to this match. It’s a direct challenge to our coaches and student-athletes. Everyone needs to take a close look in the mirror. Honestly, though, we wouldn’t want it any other way this time of year. The harder, the better.”
Although this was a tough loss and may seem indicative of future matchups in the NCAA Tournament, there is still time for Virginia to see what it can do better and be prepared for the important games later down the road. This matchup was a similar result to the most recent spring season, when the Cavaliers faced and lost to Ohio State 4-1 on their home court. However, when the games truly mattered, they beat the Buckeyes in the NCAA Final to become repeat National Champions.
Match 2 — Virginia 3, Kentucky 4
After the rough loss against Ohio State, the Cavaliers had a little bit of time off to recuperate and prepare for their next game on the road, where they closed out the weekend by facing Kentucky. Although they gained an initial two-point lead, the Cavaliers struggled to maintain the gap, and the Wildcats won four straight singles matches to win 4-3.
Doubles play started with a 6-2 win for Kentucky on the top court, but Virginia quickly retaliated with a 6-3 win on court three to even the score thanks to an impressive performance by Dietrich and senior Alexander Kiefer. It then came down to court two, where Schulenburg and Yaffa clinched the doubles point with a 6-4 victory — a strong turnaround from their loss against Ohio State.
Dietrich continued to play strongly and pulled the Cavaliers ahead 2-0 with his 6-3, 6-2 singles victory on court two — showing why he was recently named ACC Freshman of the Week. However, Kentucky was ready to fight for the victory and proceeded to take two straight-set victories on courts three and four, tying up the score.
Schulenburg faced Kentucky fifth-year Taha Baadi on the singles top court and won the first set, but Baadi took the second two sets to clinch the victory for the Wildcats. Hopper was then defeated on court five to secure the victory for Kentucky, but not before sophomore Måns Dahlberg got in one final point for the Cavaliers on court six to make the final score 4-3.
Despite the humbling second loss of the weekend, Virginia’s top two singles players were still absent, so it’s more impressive than not that the game was so close without two of the Cavaliers’ key players. These games are also beneficial for Virginia to better prepare for the upcoming Indoor Tennis Association Championship, as those matchups will also be close and challenging.
The Cavaliers will have another tough, yet helpful, matchup Friday at 5 p.m., where they will host No. 20 Georgia (4-1, 0-0 SEC) at the Boar’s Head Sports Club. Virginia will look forward to yet another ranked matchup — a valuable opportunity to earn a much-needed home victory.