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April 23, 2004

by Patrick Schuermann

This year has been a year of firsts for the Virginia men’s tennis team. The Cavaliers broke into the top ten in the national rankings and captured their first ACC title. In addition, UVa had some major victories, including a win over 5th ranked Duke, whom the Cavaliers had not beaten in over twenty-five years.

This year’s Cavalier squad is a very talented, but very young team (there is not a single senior on the team). Many of the guys on the team played in only a few matches last year, and were forced to mature quickly this year. Head coach Brian Boland credits the team’s success to its maturity and hard work (both in and out of season).

“We knew going into the year we had a lot of talent but our players have worked really hard and improved significantly since the start of the year. Most of the success is attributed to the development of the players. All of our players were very committed to improving their games over the course of the year and the hard work they put in over summer and the fall showed. They were much more mature and experienced and handled the pressure much better. The addition of another very talented first year (Marko Miklo) also helped solidify the line-up.”

With no seniors, leadership for this year’s team came from a plethora of players. Following last year’s graduation of many of the team’s leaders, several players stepped up on and off the court to assume the roles, through their words, actions and sheer emotion.

“We lost Mike Duquette to graduation last year and he was an outstanding leader. He set a great example for the young guys and they learned a lot from him. This year all of the guys lead in their own way. Doug Stewart leads a lot by example. Nick Meythaler, Rylan Rizza, and Stephen Nolen are great emotional leaders who bring a lot of excitement and energy to matches. Darrin Cohen and Marko Miklo have great work ethic and passion for the game. Each guy takes the leadership role at different times, but the best thing we have going is that all of the guys are very close, and have a lot of respect and loyalty to each other and the coaches. They are truly a great group of guys to work with.”

The Cavaliers saw a gradual progression to their current top ten ranking. While beating Duke at the end of the season was a major accomplishment for the team, Coach Boland looks back on the Minnesota match as the foundation for this year’s success.

“Our first victory of the year against Minnesota gave us a lot of momentum as we lost to them last year and we also won 4-3, which gave us some confidence. Throughout the season we continued to focus on individual improvement and it paid off towards the end.”

Virginia defeated Florida State (4-1), Duke (4-0) and Clemson (4-3) in route to Virginia’s first men’s ACC tennis title. Up next for the Cavalier’s: NCAA Regionals from May 14-16 (sites to be announced).

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