Men's Tennis: A Legacy of Excellence
By Steve Kirkland, Virginia Media Relations
Over the past decade, head coach Brian Boland has led the Virginia men’s tennis program to new heights. Not ranked in the nation’s top 75 when he took over the program in the fall of 2001, the Cavaliers are now a perennial national title contender and have established themselves as the preeminent program in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Virginia has won at least a share of the ACC regular season title for the past eight seasons, winning seven ACC Tournaments during that span. The Cavaliers have not lost to a conference opponent, regular season or postseason, in five years and enter 2011-12 looking to expand on an ACC record 78-match winning streak.
On the national level, the Cavaliers have won an unprecedented four-consecutive ITA National Team Indoor Championships and have had a No. 1 national ranking in five of the past six seasons. That success is a testament to the improvement of the program under Boland.
“I surrounded myself with good people and brought the right people on the bus,” said Boland. “Once I was able to get the right people into the program, I was able to put them in the correct roles so the program could grow and improve. I have been blessed to work with a group of people including players, coaches and administrators that believe in our program and trust us as educators. I am proud of how the players have developed on the court, but I am most proud of how these young men have gone on to be solid citizens with a determination to make a positive impact on the world.”
Virginia has won four individual NCAA Championships in recent years, and produced several players who have reached the top 100 in the world in singles and doubles. But for all the success, the Cavaliers are still looking to win that elusive first NCAA team championship. In each of the past four seasons, they entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed. Yet in each instance, they have come up short of their ultimate goal.
“That’s sports,” Boland said. “I guess at the end of the day, if you’re not willing to suffer the pain that you go through when you lose in a big moment, you can’t compete at this level. The adversity will continue to push us to get better.”
Virginia came close to winning its first title last spring, reaching the NCAA Final for the first time, only to be edged by USC 4-3. The Cavaliers fell behind 3-0 but rallied to draw even at 3-3. In the last match on, the Trojans’ David Nguyen used a late break of serve to pull out a three-set win over Sanam Singh and give USC its third straight title.
“All credit to USC. They’ve won three in a row, and we just keep trying,” said Boland. “Those are the type of situations that make people strong. I’ve always said that you don’t learn about people when things go well. You learn about people when times are tough. You just learn to bounce back in life.”
The Cavaliers will attempt to bounce back in 2011-12 with another talented squad that will once again be among the nation’s elite. All-Americans Alex Domijan and Drew Courtney return, as does All-ACC performer Jarmere Jenkins. Starters Justin Shane and Julen Uriguen are back and the team will welcome first-year Mitchell Frank, the runner-up at the 2011 USTA Boys 18s National Championships.
This summer, Domijan, Jenkins and Frank all posted wins over players ranked in the top 200 in the world. That experience will prove valuable as they look to take the Cavaliers to the highest level.
“Our fans should expect another exciting team to watch that should once again compete for an ACC and national title,” said Boland. “We have four or more players that I believe can compete for an individual national title, but more important we have a group of young men that have the experience and work ethic necessary to make this a great journey and another incredible year for this program.”