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No. 5 Virginia men’s tennis team falls to No. 12 USC in Sweet 16

No. 5 Virginia men’s tennis team falls to No. 12 USC in Sweet 16

20210517 NCAA D1 Tennis Championships

Virginia’s Gianni Ross reacts during his singles match against USC on Monday at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.

Losing the doubles point finally caught up to the Virginia men’s tennis team.

The Cavaliers dropped the doubles point in the ACC quarterfinals against Georgia Tech, but rallied back for a 4-3 win. The same situation played out in the ACC championship against North Carolina, with UVa winning 4-3 again.

In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Stanford took the doubles point from Virginia (23-3), but the Cavaliers roared back for a 4-2 win. On Monday, No. 12 seed USC took the doubles point from fifth-seeded UVa, but the Trojans had enough singles firepower to close out a 4-2 win.

“There were just a couple spots where we didn’t play close to our best tennis, and that’s how it happens,” head coach Andres Pedroso said. “You don’t really have control over how well you play, you just have control over how hard you fight, and I thought we fought on every single court. I think every guy left it out there, and that’s it. That’s the way it is.”

Virginia’s season ends in the Sweet 16.

USC taking the doubles point felt important given how strong the Cavaliers have been in singles this spring. Pedroso didn’t give the lost point too much thought, though. His team dropped the point before and came back to beat elite competition.

“I felt good coming out of doubles, and I felt good about our matchups,” Pedroso said. “I felt like the whole team was composed and we were ready to fight.”

Unfortunately for UVa, USC won a handful of key points in singles and ultimately won three of those five decided matches. The sixth match had UVa with a slight edge, but the outcome wasn’t needed.

After the Trojans jumped out to a 1-0 lead in doubles, the singles matches were competitive. UVa won matches at the No. 4 and No. 6 spot in the singles lineup, with freshman Inaki Montes and senior Gianni Ross winning in straight sets.

USC, however, took the matches at No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5. Redshirt senior Riley Smith was particularly dominant in the No. 2 singles spot, beating UVa freshman Jeffrey von der Schulenburg 6-2, 7-5. He appeared in control from the early stages of the match.

The No. 1 singles match was in the third set, with UVa graduate student Carl Soderlund up a break early in the final set after losing the first set and winning the second in a tiebreaker. Had the Cavaliers taken the doubles point, or any of the other singles matches, Soderlund’s match could have been the deciding point.

“Can’t say enough about Carl Soderlund,” Pedroso said. “Not shocked that the guy at the end of the match was fighting like crazy, and he finished his college career in the right way, just fighting like he always has.”

The match at the third spot in the singles lineup was arguably the best of the evening. Sophomore Stefan Dostanic was able to take down Virginia freshman Chris Rodesch in three sets, winning 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. While USC won the match, Rodesch deserves credit for an incredible battle.

Rodesch fought off a match point in the second set, ultimately winning the set and forcing a decisive third. It was all Dostanic in the final set, as he outlasted the Virginia youngster for the clinching point of the team match.

“I’m proud of them,” Pedroso said. “I love these guys, and they did everything they could.”

The loss was a disappointing end to Virginia’s season, but Pedroso is optimistic about the future. Freshmen played for UVa in singles spots 2-4 Monday. There’s significant youthful talent as the program hopes to return to national title contention next year.

“We’ve just got to hang in there,” Pedroso said. “Got to keep our heads up high, we’ve had a great season, and yeah, we start thinking about next year pretty soon. I’m very, very optimistic and positive about this group, and I think we’ve gained a lot of experience this year.”

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