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No. 2 men’s tennis falls to Florida State in ACC Championship

The Cavaliers downed both Clemson and Duke but were edged out of becoming four-peat champions

Coach Andres Pedroso discusses a strategy against Florida State.
Coach Andres Pedroso discusses a strategy against Florida State.

No. 2 Virginia men’s tennis traveled to Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C. to compete as the first seed in the ACC Tournament from Friday to Sunday. The Cavaliers (22-5, 12-0 ACC) were hoping to earn their fourth conference title in a row — however, they had some tough competition. After defeating Clemson (14-14, 4-8 ACC) and Duke (18-9, 9-3 ACC), Virginia ultimately fell to Florida State (21-7, 7-5 ACC) in the ACC Championship. The defeat was the first conference loss for the Cavaliers since 2020. 

Quarterfinals — Virginia 4, Clemson 1

The first opponent that Virginia had to face and defeat in order to advance to the semifinals was a team it matched up against recently — Clemson. Play started at 10 a.m. Friday morning, and the Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead. 

Senior Chris Rodesch and senior Jeffrey von der Shulenberg dominated on court two of doubles play — defeating their opponents freshman Wissam Abderrahman and graduate student Max Damm 6-3. 

Senior Alexander Kiefer and freshman Dylan Dietrich quickly followed with a 6-3 victory of their own on court three. With the doubles point clinched for the Cavaliers, play on the top court was left unfinished so the players could save their energy for the singles matches. 

With singles play in full swing, it quickly became apparent that the rest of the matchup was going to require endurance and consistency in order to win. Dietrich was the only player to fly through his match, winning 6-1, 6-2 on court four in just over an hour to make the score 2-0. 

The Tigers retaliated with a win on court three — Clemson freshman Noa Vukadin defeated Schulenburg 6-2, 6-4. Kiefer responded though with a victory on court five, winning his first set’s tiebreaker 7-6 and dominating in the second set 6-2.

Rodesch clinched the victory for Virginia — he won his first set 6-3 but dropped the second set 4-6. However, when it mattered most, he recovered and won the deciding set 6-4 on the top court. Proud of how the Cavaliers performed in their first conference championship match, Coach Andres Pedroso expected to continue to see this throughout the weekend.

“Our team has a ‘never give up’ mentality,” Pedroso said. “No matter what the score is, what the conditions are, we’re playing. These guys are just going to compete every single point. That’s been the culture for a long time in Virginia and these guys have bought in they’ve embraced it, they value it. That’s what they did today and what they do in all of our matches.”

Semifinals — Virginia 4, Duke 1 

Following the victory over the Tigers, Virginia had a quick turnaround and short recovery so it could face its next opponent, Duke, Saturday morning. 

The start was a bit slower for the Cavaliers than normal, as they lost the doubles point. Rodesch and Schulenburg won their match 6-3 on court two, but Kiefer and Dietrich, and senior Iñaki Montes de la Torre and graduate student James Hopper lost their matches on courts one and three. 

However, they didn’t let this phase them and prepared to fight hard in the singles matchups. Dietrich once again was the first to finish his singles match, winning 6-2, 6-3 on court four to even the score between Virginia and the Blue Devils. 

Kiefer finished soon after Dietrich and helped the Cavaliers pull ahead 2-1 with a 6-2, 6-1 victory on court five. Virginia continued this momentum and made the score 3-1, thanks to a 6-1, 6-4 victory on court two by Montes. All that it needed now was one more singles win to clinch the semifinals and advance to the championship.

Rodesch, for the second time this weekend, clinched the victory on the top court — bouncing back from dropping the first set to defeat No. 22 Duke senior Garrett Johns 4-6, 6-2 and 6-3. Now with two victories under their belt, the Cavaliers were ready to face Florida State in the championship match.

Championship — Virginia 3, Florida State 4

Virginia returned to Cary Tennis Park Sunday morning for its third and final match of the weekend. While the Cavaliers had been building momentum the past couple of days, they understood that the Seminoles had been doing the same — having already defeated third-seed NC State and second-seed Wake Forest to make it to the finals. Virginia knew this was going to be the toughest matchup of the weekend.

Doubles play opened with a dominant 6-0 victory on the top court by Montes and Hopper, but Florida State responded with a victory of its own on court three, defeating Kiefer and Dietrich. The point came down to court two, where Rodesch and Schulenburg managed to clinch the doubles point for Virginia with a 6-3 win. 

As the matchup moved on to the singles faceoffs, Virginia began to widen the gap. Kiefer redeemed himself after dropping his doubles match with Dietrich, winning 6-2, 6-3 on court five to make the score 2-0. The Seminoles fought back, however — junior Jamie Connel won 6-4, 7-6 on court three against Schulenburg. 

Dietrich helped keep the Cavaliers ahead by winning 6-3, 3-6 and 6-3 on court four — cementing his role as a consistent scorer for Virginia during the conference playoffs. With the score now 3-1, Virginia only needed one more point to become ACC Champions for the fourth season in a row. However, the Seminoles knew the match wasn’t over yet.

Florida State graduate student Loris Pourroy defeated Montes on court two, making the score 3-2 in favor of the Cavaliers. Seminole junior Alex Bulte tied up the faceoff with a victory on court six, defeating sophomore Mans Dahlberg 6-7, 6-3 and 6-2.

In the end, it came down to the top court, where Rodesch was facing No. 5 Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc. It was an evenly-matched battle between two top-10 singles players in the nation, with Rodesch currently being ranked No. 4. 

After losing a tiebreaker, Rodesch recovered and won the second set via another tiebreaker, forcing a third set to decide not only the match, but who the champions would be. Each player took turns leading the deciding set and ended up tying up at 5-5. In the end, Cornut-Chauvinc managed to snag the final two points to take the third set 7-5, making Florida State the ACC Champions for the 2024 season.

Pedroso, throughout the weekend, was impressed with Virginia’s performance and felt that this close loss could only make them stronger. 

“Full credit to Florida State — I’m so happy for that program,” Pedroso said. “They fought so hard. Our guys couldn’t have tried harder. Just a great match across the board. Everyone competed with everything that they had. I think this experience will be good for us in May. So that’s how we’re going to use it. And we’re going to learn from it. I think it’ll make us tougher.”

These conference matchups were a great challenge for the Cavaliers and will help them in the long run — it has reminded them of the extremely difficult challenges they faced early in the season at other tournaments. They will have some time to recover from the conference playoffs and prepare for the NCAA Tournament that will begin May 3. 

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