By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — One visit to Champaign-Urbana, Ill., would not have been enough for the UVa men’s tennis team this year. Coach Brian Boland scheduled a regular-season match at the University of Illinois for a specific reason: to let his players get familiar with the site of the final four rounds of this year’s NCAA championships.
The Cavaliers whipped the Fighting Illini 7-0 on March 17. The match was played indoors — “It was something like 30 degrees [outside], with, I think, some flurries,” Boland recalled — but he considered the experience valuable nonetheless.
“It’s good to have been somewhere before,” Boland said Sunday. “That would have been really unique, to be able to play outdoors at that time of year, at Illinois, but at the same time we were able to accomplish what we wanted to on that trip, and I think it’s always good to be somewhere. No matter if you play on the particular courts, but just to be at the University of Illinois and around the courts and the area, you get a real sense of what it’s like. It’s the first time we’ve done that, so hopefully it gives us that extra edge.”
UVa, the NCAA runner-up in 2011 and ’12, is seeded No. 2 in this year’s tournament. The Cavaliers, hosting first- and second-round matches for the 10th straight year, opened Friday with a 4-0 win over Fairleigh Dickinson.
Little more than 24 hours later, Virginia again won 4-0 at the Snyder Tennis Center, this time eliminating Minnesota. And now the Wahoos are headed to the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 for the 10th consecutive year.
UVa (25-0) will face California (16-9) on Thursday at 1 p.m. (Eastern) at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana.
“I feel great after watching the team perform today against what I think is an outstanding Minnesota team,” Boland said.
The Virginia women can clinch a third straight berth in the Sweet 16 with a win Sunday on the same courts.
Coach Mark Guilbeau’s team, seeded No. 14 in the NCAAs, opened the tournament Saturday afternoon by blanking Fairleigh Dickinson 4-0. Virginia (18-9) meets Texas (18-10) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“Every round as you advance is going to be a step up,” said freshman Julia Elbaba, who plays No. 1 singles for the `Hoos.
Virginia dominated Saturday despite the absence of another talented freshman, Stephanie Nauta, who wasn’t at full strength and was rested for precautionary reasons. Nauta usually plays No. 2 singles and teams with senior Erin Vierra at No. 1 doubles.
“We’re just being smart,” said Guilbeau, who’s hopeful Nauta will play against the Longhorns.
Boland had a full complement of players Saturday, led by senior , who plays No. 1 singles and teams with freshman Mac Styslinger at No. 1 doubles.
In his match Friday against Fairleigh Dickinson’s Arvis Berzins, Jenkins dropped the first set. Jenkins was leading 1-0 in the second when Virginia clinched the team victory.
He returned to form Saturday, crushing the Golden Gophers’ Rok Bonin 6-1, 6-0. Jenkins’ win clinched the team victory for the `Hoos.
“I came out a little less nervous today,” he said.
Boland said Jenkins has had the “best couple weeks of practice that he’s ever had as a Cavalier, and he’s really locked in, and today it showed. The opponent he had from Minnesota is an outstanding player, and to defeat him that convincingly is pretty special.”
Jenkins and Julen Uriguen, who plays No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles (with junior Justin Shane), are the only seniors in UVa’s lineup. Jenkins said it didn’t occur until after the match Saturday, “when one of the fans said something to me,” that he’d competed for the last time in Charlottesville as a Cavalier.
“For the last match, that’s definitely not a bad way to go out,” Jenkins said, smiling.
Styslinger, who plays No. 4 singles, has many more home matches ahead of him. He’s been dominant in his first NCAA tournament. Styslinger defeated his Fairleigh Dickinson foe 6-1, 6-1 on Friday and destroyed Minnesota’s Mathieu Froment by the same score on Saturday.
“Like Jarmere, he just played an unbelievable match,” Boland said. “The guy hardly made an error. He’s moving great, he’s making outstanding choices on the court, and this is the best tennis I’ve seen Mac play as well. It’s a good thing for the Cavaliers at this time of year.”
Styslinger said he’s not sure what to expect at his first Sweet 16. His first encounter with postseason tennis at the college level — last month’s ACC tournament — was an awakening.
“The ACCs, that was a complete surprise to me,” Styslinger said. “The postseason in general has just been really cool. I’m just looking forward to it.”
As is Boland, who for reasons unclear to his players has decided not to cut his hair until after the NCAA tournament ends.
“We’re as physically fit as any team I’ve ever coached,” Boland said. “The guys are mentally as energized and enthusiastic to play the game as they have been from the very beginning when they came off the summer and we started in the fall, and they’ve improved a ton, and on every level of their tennis. Mentally, physically, emotionally, every single player has made great strides.
“We have some guys that I have never seen play at this level, and I’ve been with a couple of them for four years. Julen Uriguen’s playing the best tennis of his life. , I think, is locked in and playing the best tennis of his life, and I could say that about a number of our guys.”
Virginia 4, Minnesota 0
Doubles: 1) No. 4 Jenkins/Styslinger (UVa) def. Froment/Hamburg 8-4; 2) No. 21 Frank/Domijan (UVa) def. Bonin/Ramirez 8-2; 3) Frueh/Toledo (Minn) led No. 9 J. Shane/J. Uriguen 8-7 DNF.
Singles: 1) No. 3 Jarmere Jenkins (UVa) def. No. 53 Rok Bonin 6-1, 6-0; 2) No. 83 Leandro Toledo (Minn) led No. 2 Alex Domijan 6-4, 3-4 DNF; 3) No. 39 Mitchell Frank (UVa) led Jack Hamburg 7-6(0), 3-3 DNF; 4) No. 28 Mac Styslinger (UVa) def. Mathieu Froment 6-1, 6-1 ; 5) Justin Shane (UVa) led Ruben Weber 6-0, 5-6 DNF; 6) Julen Uriguen (UVa) def. Juan Pablo Ramirez 6-3, 6-3.
Order of finish: doubles: 2, 1; singles: 4, 6, 1.