May 19, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — For the UVa men’s tennis team, which is two victories from its first NCAA title, Sunday was a time for practice and, equally important, for rest and recovery.
The Cavaliers worked out for 90 minutes in Urbana, Ill., site of the final four rounds of the NCAA team championships. The plan for the rest of the day, Virginia coach Brian Boland said by phone after practice, was to “relax, have a great team meal and make sure the guys get the things they need in terms of massages and scouting reports. You try not to overthink it. They simply need to rest their bodies and minds.”
Unbeaten UVa blanked Tennessee 4-0 on Saturday afternoon to advance to the NCAA semifinals for the fourth straight year and sixth time in seven seasons.
The Wahoos were NCAA runners-up in 2011 and ’12. A year ago, during their run to the championship match in Athens, Ga., the `Hoos never met host Georgia. Twelve months later, the Cavaliers will take on the Bulldogs some 650 miles from Athens, at the University of Illinois’ Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.
No. 2 seeded Virginia (28-0) faces third-seeded Georgia (26-4) on Monday at 2 p.m. The other semifinal matches top-seeded UCLA (28-1) and No. 5 seed Ohio State (35-2). The NCAA final is scheduled to start Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Georgia, in its quarterfinal Saturday against Pepperdine, dropped the doubles point before rallying to win the match 4-2. This is the Bulldogs’ sixth trip to the NCAA semifinals in eight seasons, but this is not the team they expected to have in Urbana.
Three days before the start of the NCAA tournament, Georgia’s No. 1 player, senior KU Singh, quit the team. Still, Boland said Sunday, he knew the Bulldogs were deep, and he understands the challenge facing his team in the semifinals.
“We’ve had some great matches against them over the years,” Boland said.
Georgia has been crowned NCAA champion six times — in 1985, 1987, 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2008. En route to its two most recent titles, Georgia ousted UVa in the semifinals.
The Bulldogs lead the series 14-2. The Cavaliers’ victories came in 2009 and ’10, in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
Virginia hasn’t faced Georgia since that 2010 match. Still, UVa’s stay in Athens last year helped Boland’s players “understand how great [the Bulldogs’] fans are and how much they appreciate their play,” Mitchell Frank said by phone Sunday.
Frank, a sophomore, plays No. 3 singles and, with junior Alex Domijan, No. 2 doubles for the `Hoos.
Against Tennessee, Frank was leading Brandon Fickey 6-3, 5-5 when UVa clinched the match. Earlier, Frank and Domijan had been tied 6-6 with Fickey and Jarryd Chaplin when the Cavaliers won the doubles point for the 26th time this season.
Having Sunday off, Frank said, gave the ‘Hoos a “day to get fully focused on playing Georgia. I think we’re the most physically fit team here, so it doesn’t matter to us if we play today or tomorrow, but it’s nice to have another day to mentally prepare.
“When you’re in the NCAA tournament, especially at this stage, every match is going to be tough. It’s a few points here or there. At this stage of the season it’s so little about the actual tennis, it’s about how you handle the pressure and deal with the nerves.”
At his second NCAA tourney, Frank feels more like a veteran.
“I know a little bit more what to expect,” he said. “Last year it was great. I was very, very excited for every match. Sometimes I think I was a little too excited, and it showed. I got off to slow starts, I was on such an adrenaline high.
“This year I feel like I’ve been able to handle the emotions. It’s a very stressful time, but obviously it’s also exciting.”