The ACC men's tennis regular season wrapped up this past weekend and it settled the final seeding for the ACC tournament that will get started on Wednesday in Cary, NC. Before I get into breaking down the tournament I want to recap the season for each ACC team. How the 2018 regular season wound up, what went well and what didn't? Obviously for many of these teams the real season judgement will come in the conference and NCAA tournament but for now I will look back and grade each team based on the regular season alone. Let's start this comprehensive look at the ACC season from the top and work our way down to the bottom.
This past weekend was a good penultimate weekend of Pac-12 regular season tennis. I personally got to enjoy it by making the 3.5 hour drive up to Salt Lake City to watch the Utes battle two fellow NCAA bubble teams in Washington and Oregon.
On Friday afternoon the Utah/UW match was moved indoors as temperatures were well below the ITA minimum, infact there were some soft snow flurries in the air as I parked and walked into the indoor facility. Utah's indoor facility is pretty high quality with great viewing available behind each court
Utah won the doubles point but Washington would go on to win 2 straight singles points to gain the momentum
#16 Southern Cal at Arizona - Arizona has had a seemingly cursed season with several close losses. They won't have to worry about that this weekend as USC should win this match fairly easily. Prediction: USC 4-0
#31 Cal at #4 Stanford - Stanford won the first meeting between these two rivals back in February 4-1. Cal has improved since the last meeting and Stanford's elite aura has been somewhat diminished since February. The Bears will give the Cardinal a closer match this time around. Prediction: Stanford 4-3
Washington at #35 Utah - Utah needs to defend the home court against unranked Washington to keep its march toward the NCAA tournament on the correct route. Washington is desperate for wins to keep its slim tournament hopes alive. This will be a tight match and so far this season, Utah has been clutch in the tight moments while Washington has succumbed in most of the close matches. I expect Utah to get the job done in the end. Prediction: Utah 4-2
#2 UCLA at #33 Arizona State - UCLA has hit its stride and is looking like a legitimate national contender. Arizona State has proved this season that winning in Tempe is not easy and they will certainly have a big crowd on hand to support their Sun Devils. Prediction: UCLA 4-2
Big weekend coming up in the ACC. Today I will preview the Friday matches (Saturday/Sunday preview to come early on Saturday).
There is actually one Thursday match but it is Florida State at Boston College and we all know how the BC ACC matches go.
#1 Wake Forest at #39 Louisville - Louisville got a very much needed win last weekend at Duke. It kept their ranking from sinking below 40 and stopped the string of three straight ACC losses. Wake Forest did not look extremely impressive vs Clemson and Georgia Tech last weekend but they were able to get two wins despite some players missing for Davis Cup. This match will be closer than people may expect with it being at Louisville and Wake hitting a slight lull in form recently. But in the end the Deacs are just too talented to lose this match . Prediction: Wake Forest 5-2
#23 NC State at #49 Virginia - The importance of this match cannot be stressed enough. Virginia absolutely must defend home courts and win this match if they wish to make the NCAA tournament this season. Following the heartbreaking loss to Duke, Virginia has gone on to lose three more in a row after that to complete a four match losing streak. Gianni Ross did not play vs Florida State. UVA will need him in the lineup if they are to upset NC State, who is on a four match win streak of their own. With their backs against the wall, I think Virginia will come together behind their fans and find a way to defeat NC State. Prediction: Virginia 4-3
It was a great Easter weekend of Pac-12 men's tennis with several close dramatic matches and important results for NCAA tournament positioning. By the end of the weekend there would be three teams very pleased with their performance, two with a neutral performance and four teams who had negative weekends.
UCLA: The Bruins had one of the most impressive weekends in the entire country. It began on Friday when UCLA matched up with #3 Stanford in a highly anticipated rematch from early February when Stanford pulled out a tight 4-3 match. The Bruins had two things going for them heading into the match; this time around the match was at home for UCLA and also Stanford had not played a truly competitive dual match in three weeks. UCLA came out strong, taking the doubles point in relatively quick fashion. They continued the doubles momentum into singles by winning 5 of the 6 1st sets. The Bruins would not relinquish the momentum at any point as Evan Zhu, Keegan Smith and Maxime Cressey all finished off their opponents in straight sets to stop the match with a 4-0 UCLA victory. This performance showed that UCLA is not at all ready to cede the Pac 12 to Stanford this season and that they are certainly on the national shortlist for national title contenders heading into April and May.
This past weekend was a busy one in ACC men's tennis with several results that raised eyebrows around the college tennis world. But the ACC weekend very clearly belonged to one team.
Team of the Weekend: Florida State
It had already been a very good season for the Florida State Seminoles prior to this past weekend but the entire college tennis world was put on notice to "Fear the Spear" on Sunday as the Noles pulled off the stunning 4-3 upset of previously undefeated #1 Wake Forest. Before the match on Sunday, there was chatter that maybe this could be a spot for a big FSU win at home in Tallahassee, especially since Wake Forest did not look all that convincing vs Miami on Friday. But the chances of an upset were made slim when the Deacs pulled out a tight doubles point as Mansouri/Dempster defeated Dougaz/Iradukunda 7-6(3) in the deciding doubles line. The Seminoles would now have to somehow find a way to win 4 singles courts... And FSU was every bit up for the challenge. As Coach Dwayne Hultquist put it "The biggest thing is we didn't give up. We were very competitive the whole way through the match. We could have won the doubles point but lost the tiebreaker. Aziz could have won the 1st set but didn't. We could have won the 1st set at Chase's court but didn't. It was a match where we never gave up. For Guy and Chase to be down a set and come back and win showed a lot of heart and that we will never give up".
FSU had several close moments early in the match where they could have folded and decided that their effort was enough but they never did, they were not going to finish the match without a team victory. The key moment in the match was Guy Iradukunda winning the 2nd set tiebreak over Borna Gojo to spark the comeback. His 2-6 7-6(3) 6-2 proved to be the turning point court for FSU. Lucas Pouillan followed Iradukunda's huge win with a massive 3 set 6-4 5-7 6-3 victory of his own over Skander Mansouri. The upset was confirmed when Chase Wood rallied to beat Julian Zlobinksy 6-7(3) 6-4 6-4 on court 6. Wood led the 3rd set 4-1, before Zlobinsky rallied to make it 4-5. Zlobinsky began to cramp in the final game and Wood was able to finish it off to secure the upset win in Tallahassee.
Florida State's huge win over Wake Forest followed what was already a very solid win on Friday over #23 NC State. In the Friday ACC preview I wrote that I anticipated FSU/NC State would go down to the wire with it likely going 4-3 the way of the Seminoles. But FSU did not feel like sweating that much on Friday and took care of the Wolfpack with relative ease in a straightforward 4-0 win. The 4-0 beatdown if NC State followed by the dramatic upset over the #1 team in the nation makes FSU easily the team of the weekend in the ACC and will launch them into the top 10 in the new ITA rankings. 2018 has all the makings of being the best FSU season in a very long time.
Other Positive Weekends
Louisville: The Cardinals had a solid ACC weekend at home with two wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech. In both contests they took the doubles point and ran out with three fairly quick singles victories to secure a win (the GT match was played out while the Clemson match was not). These were two important steps toward the NCAA tournament for Louisville, who will also get more benefit from their win over Virginia as the Cavaliers ranking rises in the coming weeks.
Virginia: Virginia continued their in-form play over the weekend with a comprehensive 6-1 beating of Georgia Tech followed by a 4-2 win over Clemson in which they rallied after dropping a close doubles point. Carl Soderlund has now won 6 in a row at #1 for Virginia, 3 over ranked players and 5 of the 6 wins being in straight sets. His resurgence in form has been key to the Wahoo's recent winning streak.
Miami: The Hurricanes got a much needed positive weekend, playing in two epic matches, which outside of the FSU win, were the two best games of the weekend anywhere in the country. Miami has show flashes of improvement in moments this season but nothing indicated that they would be a major scare for #1 Wake Forest on Friday. But provide a major scare for the Deacs they certainly did. After taking the doubles point, Miami got big singles wins from Bojan Jankulovski at #4 and from Adria Soriano Barrera at #2. After Wake Forest won straight set matches at 1,5 and 6, the match would come down to court 3 where Bar Botzer of Wake was able to outlast Dane Dunlap 7-5 4-6 6-4 and deny Miami a massive upset win.
Despite the heartbreak, there were plenty of positives for Miami to take out of challenging the #1 team in the nation to the absolute wire. But would the positives translate to Sunday's match vs #23 NC State? The answer proved to be a resounding yes. Despite dropping the doubles point to the Wolfpack, the Canes stormed back in singles to upend NC State and collect a big ranked win. The player of the weekend for Miami was Adria Soriano Barrera who beat both #30 Skander Mansouri and #24 Alexis Galarneau in straight sets but the hero of Sunday's win was Bojan Jankulovski who rallied to beat Georgiy Malyshev 1-6 6-2 7-6(5) while fighting off cramps in the final set tiebreak and he added "it was worth it, I'd say" about the cramps setting in as his teammates mobbed him following the clutch win.
A big Friday looms in ACC men's tennis today. 6 important match-ups to break down.
#1 Wake Forest at Miami 3pm (ESPN3)
This is a good chance for college tennis fans to watch the #1 Wake Forest Demon Deacons on ESPN3. If you have not already seen them play, I would recommend tuning in and witnessing the great talent that they possess. Miami is desperate for a big win and have home court advantage, but being competitive against Wake is going to just be a bridge too far for the Hurricanes. Prediction: Wake Forest 7, Miami 0
Virginia at Georgia Tech 3pm
Virginia will be looking to build off of their big win over Notre Dame with another ACC victory over the Yellow Jackets. GT has not had a good season so far and is not showing many signs of life as we get deeper into the ACC season. They will need to come out inspired and take the doubles point if they are going to have any chance to beat in-form Virginia. I do not see it happening however. Prediction: Virginia 6, Georgia Tech 1
The newest College Tennis Today contributor is Jeff McMillan. Jeff has been a rabid college tennis fan and follower for over a decade now and was the manager of the Clemson men's team in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He has attended the past 3 NCAAs in Waco, Tulsa and Athens as well as many matches at a variety of schools across the country. He will be reporting on the ACC men's season as well as a few reports on the Pac 12 men.