The Cavaliers are headed to Orlando for the NCAA Men's Tennis Quarterfinals after topping Stanford, 4-2.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The No. 5 Virginia men’s tennis team (24-4) advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship after picking up a 4-2 victory over No. 12 Stanford (19-7) on Saturday in the Charlottesville Super Regional.
The match began outdoors at the Snyder Tennis Center, but was moved to the indoor courts at the Boar’s Head Sports Center in the middle of the singles competition after it began to rain. Virginia held a 1-0 lead after doubles, but fell behind 2-1 after Stanford picked up singles wins on courts four and five. The Cavaliers tied the match with a win by senior Aswin Lizen (Dougals, Isle of Man) on court six. Freshman Brandon Nakashima (San Diego, Calif.) put UVA ahead 3-2 after prevailing in the third set of his match on court two. Junior Carl Soderlund (Stockholm, Sweden) clinched the victory with a win on court one.
“Credit to Stanford as every time we play them it is just a hard-fought match. They compete so well and are so resilient,” said head coach Andres Pedroso. “Before the match, I told the guys that no matter what the score is, we are always in it. Never give up, and that’s what these guys do. They fight and they always have faith. It was great to be able to play this here in Charlottesville with our fans and the community, because this place loves tennis. Now, it is really special to be in the mix with the top eight teams. It is always fun to go to the main event and battle against the best. That’s why these kids chose UVA and it is great that we have given them another opportunity to be there.”
Senior Henrik Wiersholm (Kirkland, Wash.) and freshman Brandon Nakashima (San Diego, Calif.) opened up doubles with a 6-2 victory over the No. 21 duo of Axel Geller and Alexandre Rotsaert on the top doubles court. Sophomore Gianni Ross (Chicago, Ill.) and freshman William Woodall (Washington, D.C.) clinched the point with a 6-4 win on court three.
In singles play, Söderlund and Nakashima picked up quick first-set victories on courts one and two before the rains came. The teams relocated to the Boar’s Head and resumed play after an hour delay.
After play resumed, Stanford won first sets on courts four and five while the matches on three and six both went to tiebreakers to decide the opening frame. Wiersholm won his tiebreaker, 7-3, on three while Lizen prevailed 7-5 on court six to give the Cavaliers four first sets.
The Cardinal, however, got a momentum swing when Sameer Kumar and Timothy Sah closed out straight-set victories on courts four and five to put Stanford ahead, 2-1.
Lizen dominated his second set, 6-2, to win in straight sets over Sangreet Sridhar and tie the match.
On court two, Nakashima had won his first set, 6-1, over No. 63 Alexandre Rotsaert, but was edged 6-4 in the second set. Nakashima fell behind 3-1 in the second set, but rallied for a 6-3 victory to give UVA a 3-2 lead.
On court one, Söderlund breezed to a 6-0 victory in set one against No. 13 Axel Geller, and took a 5-0 lead in the second set. Geller, however, mounted a comeback, winning seven-straight games, including staving off a match-point, to win the second set, 7-5, and force a third set. Söderlund won the first game and built up a 4-0 lead in the second set en route to his 6-1 victory that sealed the match.
“[Geller] came out shooting,” Söderlund said. “When I was up, he played well. [In between the second and third set], I told myself, ‘you can’t give up, for the team, for everyone out here. You can’t just let one set get you and let everyone down.’ I got a good start [in the last set]. I told myself that I needed to come out with the energy, because if I came out quiet, he was just going to keep shooting. I thought ‘energy, energy, energy,’ and it worked out. I have never played a match like that before. I won 11 games in a row and then he won seven in a row, but you never know what is going to happen after you take a five-minute break. That is why you have to try to bring the energy, try to reset every point. That has been a big theme of our team this year. I tried to follow that and do my best.”
The team has now reached the quarterfinals in 14 of the last 15 seasons. Virginia has won four of the last six NCAA titles, including three-consecutive from 2015-17.
The eight super regional winners advance to the finals site, the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., where the quarterfinals through championship matches being contested May 16-19. The Cavaliers will face No. 4 Wake Forest in the quarterfinals on Thursday (May 16) at 12 p.m. Live stats and a live video stream will be available for the match.