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Virginia men’s tennis — a dynasty in Charlottesville

A look into how Coach Andres Pedroso turns losses into championships and prepares his players for the road ahead

<p>Behind inspiring leadership, Coach Andres Pedroso has built the Cavaliers into a powerhouse.</p>

Behind inspiring leadership, Coach Andres Pedroso has built the Cavaliers into a powerhouse.

For the Virginia men’s tennis team, the month of February has yielded a similar pattern as the past couple of seasons. It is a period highlighted by the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships, a 16-team tournament featuring some of the best teams in the country, as well as an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule to boot — this season, Coach Andres Pedroso’s team matched up against No. 1 Ohio State, No. 11 Kentucky and No. 24 Georgia before the tournament.

With the team winning only three of its six matches this month — which follows a 2-4 February record in 2023 and a 1-5 mark in 2022 — the Cavaliers have now put together a combined 6-12 record during February in their past three spring campaigns. One flip of the calendar page, however, and Virginia was able to boast a 44-0 record in the months of March, April and May during the 2022 and 2023 seasons. That led to the team winning the ACC regular season, the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament titles in both campaigns.

The Cavaliers have been a team marked by resiliency and an ability to completely turn a season around on their path to the top of the college tennis world. Coach Andres Pedroso believes that the lessons his team learns from early season losses play a significant role in his players’ development on and off the court, so he doesn’t stray from continuing to schedule quality opponents every year.

“If we've got room in the schedule for a non-conference group of matches, we're going to try and make them the toughest ones possible,” Pedroso said. “Because unfortunately for human beings, it takes losing for us to really learn and for us to really react — we don't learn as much from the wins.”

Virginia’s unmatched ability to respond after regular season defeats didn’t come about by chance. Dynasties are created and sustained by a multitude of factors, and perhaps most important to a team’s ability to attain dynasty status is the leadership it has on the court. 

For Virginia, it is the current senior class that Pedroso cites as the primary source of leadership. This is in part because they are the only members of the team who were freshmen for the Cavaliers’ upset loss to 12th-seeded Southern California in the 2021 NCAA Tournament — the program’s most recent postseason loss.

“They were kind of shell-shocked when it came to the experience. They didn't know what to expect,” Pedroso said. “And the next year before the postseason, all of them said ‘Coach this year, we're going to be ready. We know what it is this year, we're going to be ready.’”

Senior Iñaki Montes de la Torre was the only one of that class to win his singles match in the loss to the Trojans. However, last year, Montes, senior Jeffrey von der Schulenburg and senior Chris Rodesch fittingly claimed the three singles points needed to clinch the National Championship against Ohio State. This class of 2024 is looking to go out on their third title in a row. 

However, the future of the program is in good hands despite the impending loss of the team’s beloved seniors. It was recently announced that the Cavaliers have signed what was almost unanimously voted as the top recruiting class for the 2024-25 season. It is a class that includes incoming freshman Joao Fonseca, the top-ranked boy in the ITF Junior Rankings. Pedroso attributes this impressive recruiting class to the culture that everyone at Virginia has been involved in building.

“I think the most powerful moment of the recruiting process is the official visit,” Pedroso said. “And I think once these recruits show up to Charlottesville, and they see what practices are like, and they see what the coaches are like, and how invested they are, and how invested the entire university is behind athletics … I think Virginia stands out.”

The Cavaliers’ coaching staff is incredibly invested in the success of their players, not just as tennis players, but as people. The lessons that the coaches have worked hard to impart on their players are meant to be applicable to a wide range of life situations. Whether the alumni of this program elect to continue their tennis careers or not, the hope for Pedroso and the rest of his coaching staff is that their player’s develop into better people than they were before they joined the program.

“Nobody comes back to Virginia and talks about the national titles or the ACC titles, they talk about the stories, they talk about the lessons, they talk about the tough days, the honest conversations and how they remember them down the road when they're going through a tough situation,” Pedroso said.

While Pedroso’s program hopes to provide long-term benefits to its players, the Cavaliers are still focused on the present moment. So far this season, they have suffered losses to No. 4 South Carolina, No. 1 Ohio State and No. 11 Kentucky, but there is no panic in this team, and there shouldn’t be. They have been in this situation before and ended up emerging as champions. The roads to those championships have never been smooth for Virginia, but the bumps along the way are a critical part of the team’s success.

“To win it three times in a row, it's going to take exceptional leadership. So this experience is going to force them to grow as leaders and do even better than they have the last two years,” Pedroso said. “But again, that's why they chose Virginia.”

Pedroso is right — three consecutive National Championships would be an exceptional, almost unfathomable accomplishment. But if there’s one program built to pull off the unfathomable, it’s the Cavaliers.


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