COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 16 Virginia men’s tennis team (3-0, 1-0 ACC) defeated Cal (0-2, 0-0 Pac12) 4-2 in the opening match on Saturday (Jan. 26) at ITA Kickoff Weekend at the Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station, Texas.
Virginia dropped the doubles point, but picked up wins on singles courts two, four and six to take a 3-1 lead. The Bears made it 3-2 with a win on court five, but freshman Brandon Nakashima (San Diego, Calif.), who was making his debut on the No. 1 court, picked up a late break in his third set to win his match and seal the victory for the Cavaliers.
“This team has a lot of fight in them. They showed that today,” said Virginia head coach Andres Pedroso. “I’m really proud of how we stayed the course today as a team. That’s what this year is going to be all about with this squad.”
The Cavaliers advance to face either Texas A&M or Western Michigan on Sunday (Jan. 27) at 3 p.m. The winner of Sunday’s match with earn a spot in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, being held Feb. 15-18 in Chicago, Ill. Illinois. ITA Kick-Off Weekend consists of 15 regionals with four teams competing in each regional across the country.
Senior Henrik Wiersholm and Nakashima cruised to a 6-2 win at No. 3 doubles to start the day, but Cal tied things up with a win on court one. Senior Aswin Lizen (Douglas, Isle of Man) and sophomore Gianni Ross (Chicago, Ill.) trailed 6-5 in their doubles match on court two and were down 40-15, only to rally and force a deuce point which they won to send the match into a tiebreaker. The duo battled until the end, but were ultimately edged 10-8 in the tiebreaker to give the doubles point to Cal.
In singles, junior Carl Soderlund (Stockholm, Sweden) tied the match with a dominant 6-3, 6-1 victory on court two. Wiersholm followed shortly thereafter with a 6-2, 6-3 victory on court three. Freshman Ryan Goetz (Greenlawn, N.Y.) sailed through his first set, 6-0, but dropped his second 6-3, before closing out his match on court six with a 6-3 victory in the third set to stake UVA to a 3-1 advantage. The Bears won a three-set victory on court five to make it a 3-2 score.
The two remaining courts were both on serve in the third set until Nakashima won a break point to take a 4-3 lead. He closed out the victory, downing No. 98 Paul Barretto 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to seal the victory for the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers have won six ITA National Team Indoor Championships, including four-straight from 2008 to 2011 and most recently in 2017 when the tournament was held in Charlottesville. Virginia has only failed to advance out of ITA Kickoff Weekend once in the 10-year history of the format.