Cavalier Corner

June 2017

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12 ◆ CAVALIER CORNER BY CAMERON ROSS J .C. ARAGONE HAS HAD A LOT OF time to work on his dance moves, and this year — his fourth at UVA — has had him grooving more than any of his three prior. From the championship-clinching match at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Indoor against No. 3 Ohio State, to his title-clinching match in his No. 2 Cavaliers' ACC Tournament triumph over No. 1 Wake Forest, all the way to the national championship-clinching match against No. 9 North Carolina, Aragone has had the opportunity to integrate new moves. During the journey, he has had to use a little bit of a different approach — es- pecially to overtake Wake's 6-foot-10, All-ACC third-teamer Christian Serpahim in the ACC Tournament final. Up 4-3 in the third set, vying for a service break of Seraphim, Aragone put on a type of jig for distraction purposes before every single one of his opponent's massive incoming serves. "The strategy was to act like a goalie," Aragone said of his moves. "DT [associate coach Dustin Taylor] was like, 'Just don't let him ace on this side; just try to get in his head.' Literally, I was just trying anything; I didn't have one single look before, so I just decided to be crazy." It worked. UVA captured its third ACC ti- tle in four years behind Aragone's 7-6 (10-8), 4-6, 6-3 match win. The Demon Deacons had knocked off the Cavaliers in the same spot a year ago, and were the only team Virginia lost to during the regular season this year. Aragone's tournament MVP perfor- mance, alongside the exploits of his Wahoo teammates, sent his team dancing into the NCAA Tournament with the confidence one would expect from the then two-time national champion fourth-year class. "We all believe in each other. We trust each other, so that helps," Aragone said. "At the end of the day, it's going to be the clos- est team that will hold the trophy. "It's not so much about the individual that matters," he added about his group's confidence going into tournament play. "I think we all have confidence, but we're not arrogant." Early NCAA Tournament sweeps have become synonymous with the Cavalier ten- nis team during their recent reign of domi- nance. The confident mentality surged them past their first three NCAA opponents, with sweeps of Monmouth, No. 23 Columbia and No. 15 Florida. It wasn't until the quarterfinal match of the tournament that a team could score on UVA, when No. 10 Texas managed to lose just 4-1. Virginia's eighth consecutive national semifinal appearance was against the re- venge-minded Buckeyes. This time, UVA uncharacteristically lost the doubles point to go down early, but ral- lied to a 3-1 lead before a rain delay held up play for just more than four hours. Third- year Henrik Wiersholm was serving for the match point at No. 6 singles when the delay was initiated. "I was on the court pretty frantically try- ing to rush him to go [to try to beat the rain]," Wiersholm said. "He was slowing down, but I wanted to play the point. Things like that happen, and you have to be pre- pared for that. We talk about it all the time." Wiersholm made short work after the rain delay, only needing two minutes to defeat OSU's Kyle Seelig to take the match 7-5, 7-5 and put his Hoos in the national cham- pionship final. Their final opponent couldn't have been a more familiar team — North Carolina. En route to the ITA National Indoor title, Virginia met UNC in the semifinals, defeat- ing the Tar Heels 4-0. They also met once during the regular season, in Charlottesville, in what was arguably the match of the year with the Cavaliers edging the visitors 4-3. Then in the semifinals of the ACC Tourna- ment, UVA topped UNC 4-3 again. No team was sicker of the Cavaliers than the Tar Heels by season's end. The inconvenient Athens, Ga., weather was a detriment from the semifinal round on, but only had a real effect when it forced the entire final match indoors. The Dan Magill Tennis Complex's at the University of Georgia has only four indoor courts, so No. 5 and No. 6 singles couldn't even begin until two matches ended (if they were needed). Aragone and Wiersholm — at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, respectively — would be waiting in the wings. "Athens has been tough on us over the years with some really close matches," Bo- land said. "But we've been through a lot of adversity here. "We've talked about that, and once again, we come to Athens this year, and adversity struck with the changing weather." The quest for the coveted doubles point took just 23 minutes. Courts one and three had been dominated — No. 1 by Caroli- na's Ronnie Schneider and Anu Kodali and No. 3 by Virginia with third-year Collin Altamirano and Aragone — to put the em- phasis on No. 2 doubles. Neither pair could get the edge. UVA fourth-years Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Al- exander Ritschard held their serve to go up 4-3, but the teams continued to trade points until they couldn't trade them anymore with the match tied 6-6. Carolina went up 5-4 in the tiebreaker, but behind the tenacity of the fourth-year combo and had-to-be-there shots, Kwiatkowski and Ritschard took the doubles point to put Virginia up 1-0 early. Ritschard carried the momentum from the doubles victory into his match at No. 1 singles, blowing past Schneider 6-1, 6-3 to provide UVA with a 2-0 advantage. SELECT COMPANY UVA Becomes Just The Fourth Men's Tennis Program To Be Crowned National Champs Three Straight Years Fourth-year J.C. Aragone — dubbed "Mr. Clutch by head coach Brian Boland — notched championship-clinching wins for the Cavaliers in the ITA National Indoor, ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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