On Monday May 17, the Virginia Men’s Tennis team (No. 5, 23-3) saw the end of its postseason at the hands of USC (No. 12, 23-6) in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship. With the win, the Trojans have now knocked the Cavaliers out of the tournament six times since 2009 and will next face the University of Texas – Austin in the Elite Eight.
Virginia Head Coach Andres Pedroso said, “Our guys fought like crazy. But USC just played a little better than us today. There were just a couple spots where we didn’t play close to our best tennis.”
From the beginning, it was clear that the UVA-USC matchup would be fought on the margins. In doubles, USC’s Daniel Cukierman and Riley Smith downed Soderlund and Woodall 6-4, and Trojans Stefan Dostanic and Bradley Frye edged out Rodesch and Goetz by a score of 7-6 (7-5).
The Cavaliers continued the struggle after losing the doubles point, losing the first set in four of six singles matches. The first singles match to finish ended in a Cavalier defeat when freshman Jeffrey Schulenburg was downed 6-2, 7-5 by super-senior Riley Smith, ranked No. 50 in the nation.
However, despite a 2-0 deficit, the Cavaliers continued to hold on tight and even seemed to reverse the tide. On Court 3, Rodesch overcame a 4-5 deficit in the second set to win 7-5 against Stefan Dostanic, forcing a third set. Soon following, Ross won his match 6-4, 7-5 and Montes cruised to a 7-6, 6-2 victory, delivering two points for the Hoos.
Inaki Montes wins 7-6, 6-2 against Bradley Frye, courtest of UVA Athletics
With the score tied at 2-2, the Cavaliers and the Trojan respectively needed two more victories in the three remaining matches to clinch the team win. All attention turned to Carl Soderlund, who was battling Daniel Cukierman, ranked No. 1 in 2020, on Court 1. Soderlund had fallen 4-6 in the first set and was forced into a tiebreaker in the second. But energized by the cheers of his teammates, he took the tiebreaker 7-2, forcing a third set and keeping open the Cavaliers’ chance to win the match.
However, soon following Soderlund’s victorious second set, Goetz was narrowly defeated 6-3, 7-5 by freshman Lodewijk Westrate, a five-time Dutch junior singles champion. Leading 3-2, the Trojans got their final win from Stefan Dostanic, who won the clincher against Rodesch 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.
Commenting on his team’s performance, Pedroso said, “You don’t really have control over how well you play; you just have control over how hard you fight, and I thought we fought on every single court. I think every guy left it out there.”
Despite having lost again to an old rival, the Virginia squad has much to be proud of in the 2020-2021 season, including their 17-match win streak and their status as the ACC regular season and ACC tournament champions. Of particular note, senior Gianni Ross ended his career on a 10-match win streak, going 14-3 in singles this season. Perhaps even more impressive, Montes ended his first season 18-4 and won all three of his singles matches in the NCAA Tournament.
Up next, Soderlund and Schulenburg will compete in the NCAA singles championship, and Soderlund and Woodall will appear as a team in the doubles championship. As these three players prepare for the upcoming challenge, the rest of the squad can take a well-deserved break while cheering on their fellow Wahoos.