CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va– Having won all of their previous matches at the Boar’s Head Sports Center facility, Virginia Men’s Tennis (12-2, 6-0 ACC) returned today to continue the streak by defeating Georgia Tech (8-6, 2-4 ACC) by 5-2 Friday afternoon. Most fans expected the No. 3-ranked Hoos to cruise by the No. 45-ranked Yellow Jackets, as the Virginia squad has won every match against this opponent since 2002. However, the nearly three hour contest was far from a decided victory, as the Yellow Jackets delivered formidable and consistent resistance against the Cavaliers throughout the matchup. At the end of the match, UVA Head Men’s Tennis Coach Andres Pedroso acknowledged, “It was a hard fought battle against the Yellow Jackets….It was a really good battle but our guys found a way.”
Virginia started off winning the Doubles point, but the closeness of the matches gave the Cavaliers an indication of the tough road that lay ahead. Playing on Court 1 was the iconic duo Carl Soderlund and William Woodall, who came in hot with a 4-0 ACC streak and were named ACC Doubles Team of the Week this past Wednesday. Unexpectedly, the pair lost 4-6 to freshmen Marcus McDaniel (Vacaville, CA) and Andres Martin (Flowery Beach, GA), two top Georgia Tech recruits.
However, immediately after their loss, the Virginia gentlemen began to support their teammates on Courts 2 and 3. Second to finish were Ryan Goetz and Chris Rodesch, who secured a victory at 6-4 and now have a net winning record for the season. All eyes then turned to Schulenburg and Montes, who were tied 5-5. The Virginia pair almost lost their chance to close the set, after letting a 40-15 lead go to deuce, but they managed to win the next two games, finishing the set at 7-5 and clinching the Doubles point for the Cavaliers.
The Hoos barely had time to regroup when they were rushed out to their singles matches. On Court 6, UVA freshman Alexander Kiefer quickly crushed his freshman counterpart Chen Dong (Australia) 6-1, 6-2 in Kiefer’s second-ever match of the season. After this outstanding performance by Kiefer, the Cavaliers needed only two more points to win the contest. These points were captured by Jeffrey Schulenburg at 6-4, 6-2, and by Gianni Ross, who after a close 7-5 first set decisively won the second set 6-2. Commenting on his victory, Ross remarked, “I had a pretty slow start… but I had a good comeback, which took the energy out of my opponent.” “That lets me free up and be the clincher! Which happens some days,” he added coyly.
While the Cavaliers knew they had won the contest, battles continued to rage on the courts of Soderlund, Rodesch, and Montes. The scores were extremely close. Entering the match 8-3 overall (4-0 ACC), Inaki Montes only eked out a win against 0-3 opponent Keshav Chopra in a 10-8 tiebreaker after winning the first set 6-3 and losing the second set by the same score. The victory, which many expected to be a landslide, ended up being too close for comfort. On Court 3, Luxembourg native Chris Rodesch continued to clash with Georgia Tech’s Pablo Schelcher (Spain) after losing the first set 6-7, but the second set was concluded at the same score as the first set, and the hard-fought match was lost by Rodesch after two tiebreakers.
Finally, attention turned to Court 1, where fifth-year Carl Soderlund was fighting to redeem his earlier doubles loss against freshman Marcus McDaniel. Soderlund scraped by in his first set with a tiebreaker, which he won 8-6 after being down 0-3. But he then ceded his second set 4-6 and ultimately lost the match in a heart-pounding 7-10 tiebreaker. In what was just his second singles loss in the season, it seems Soderlund (7-2) has met his match in the much younger McDaniel, ranked No. 5 in Boys’ 18 and fourth nationally in his class.
With another W under their belts (albeit a hard-fought one), the Cavaliers have bolstered their position as the leader of the ACC and will face off against Clemson on Sunday March 14 at Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville. Ranked 10th in the ACC and unranked by the ITA, Clemson should avail itself to an easy victory by Virginia, but as Friday’s contest showed, you can never underestimate an opponent.