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April 17, 1998

Many star high school athletes have a difficult time making the transition to Division I athletics. Virginia ‘s first year tennis star has had no such difficulties. After overcoming a frustrating arm injury that occurred in the summer, Vahaly has filled in the No.1 spot nicely for Virginia.

“He has just recently come into his own and staring to make a big impact. He is living up to his billing,” Coach Thomas Johnston said.

The expectations that Vahaly came to the University were a lot to handle in their own right. The Atlanta native was the top high school recruit in the country last year and was ranked 14th in ITF Junior World Rankings. Vahaly said he had hoped to come to Virginia and make a big impact right away, however things did not go exactly as planned. While playing in the Junior Wimbledon (where he reached the quoter finals) this past summer, adjusting to the different surface [grass] caused unusual strain on his arm.

“I wasnt hitting the ball correctly, not really square on like Im used to hitting. Ive been playing tennis for 16 years and used to hitting the ball a certain way, then when I got on a different court, I just really messed up my arm,” Vahaly said. “I had shocks going all the way through my arm, I had some inflamed tissue and that turned into tennis elbow and that turned into a strained bicep, so it was like a never ending thing.”

Six months to be exact. Vahaly couldn’t practice for that length of time, so he used the time off to work a lot on his strength and fitness.

He has come back in excellent condition and his strength has improved a lot, assistant coach Tom Sellman said.

Although his first season did not start exactly how he wanted it to, he has turned things around and stepped up nicely for the Cavaliers.

After top seeded Bear Schofield went down with an ankle injury in February, first year Vahaly earned the nod to play in the number one spot. Since playing in the top spot, he has garnered an NCAA ranking of 56.

He has competed really well in all of his matches lately and has come up with some big matches recently, Johnston said.

Recent upsets include last years conference champion from NC State, and Virginia Techs top seeded player who was ranked 20th in NCAA competition.

He is one of the smartest players I have ever coached, Johsnton said. He is super competitive and he has arguably the best backhand in the county. That coupled with his ability to figure his opponents out quickly make him tough to beat.

Coming in with such high accolades and rankings, the young star could have been tempted to by-pass college tennis and strictly played tournaments and joined the ATP tour. While he has not ruled out leaving school early in favor of the tour, right now he says he is concentrating on qualifying himself and the team for the NCAA tournament.

“A lot of people ask me during the summer about [playing strictly tournaments] but I was brought up to rest too highly on academics to not go to college,” he said. “There’s a lot of money to be made out there with contracts and it’s tough to pass up if you do well in college and tournaments. That is something that I have looked at and will continue to do. Right now I’m trying to do well while I am here because I hope to go to law school.”

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