Cavalier Corner

June 2017

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14 ◆ CAVALIER CORNER Only a few weeks earlier, the pair had met in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament, with Schneider winning in straight sets as part of UNC's sweep of competition on courts one through three. "My mindset was a lot different than what it was in the ACCs," Ritschard said. "I re- ally just focused on playing for the team. I focused on the match. I focused on doing the little things outside the court. "The important part was that I didn't think about the ACC match or losing to him." Kwiatkowski, gassed from the agoniz- ing doubles point just earned, fell to tal- ented rookie William Blumberg in straight sets to give UNC its first point of the after- noon. First-year Carl Soderlund also fell in straight sets on court three, evening the match at 2-2. "You have to play every point," Boland said. "With the scoring system, which cer- tainly is exciting and the parity of college tennis, you can't take a point off." But the depth of the Virginia lineup — one of the hallmarks of this team — shined through, once again. On court four — the court farthest away from the entrance and from everybody's at- tention — Altamirano won his match easily, utilizing his zipping forehand to take a 6-3, 6-1 victory. Aragone and Wiersholm had been side- lined for the entirety of the singles action to this point. After Soderlund was defeated at No. 3, the two began to warm up. With the Cavaliers now up 3-2, only one point was needed between the two to bring home the championship. Aragone noted that he didn't feel any pressure, having been in that posi- tion in the past. "None of that matters when you're serv- ing a match point for an NCAA title. That all goes out the window," Aragone said. "I'm sure it [his past experience] helped a little bit, but at the end of the day you have to understand what the situation is." The first sets between the two had a fair share of difficulty. Wiersholm took his man down 6-4 in the first set, while Aragone needed a tiebreaker to decide his first. He did win it, 7-2, to take his first set 7-6. Just one set won between the two Wa- hoos, and the Cavaliers would be leaving Athens with a third national crown. Aragone, knowing his past with champi- onship-clinching points seized this season, wanted to be the one dancing, yet again, at the finish — and his play showed it. "I was getting very anxious; I was rush- ing a little bit, which isn't great, especially when the guy [UNC's player] liked it when I was playing fast," Aragone said. "I just needed to take my time and slow down. "In those moments, you get so anxious — it's so easy to go for a winner or try to come in at the wrong time." Aragone got up early and stayed on top throughout the set en route to an eventual match-clinching 6-2 win. The Cavaliers (34-1) topped North Carolina (29-5) 4-2 to take home their third straight national championship. "All he does is come through," Boland said of Aragone. "He's Mr. Clutch. When he was one of the last matches, I was pretty comfortable." Rackets flying, water splashing, trophy hoisting — this is Cavalier tennis. The title marked the fourth all-time championship in program history, with all of them coming in the past five years (2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017). The race to see who could seize the championship first was won by Aragone for a final time, and although Wiersholm's match was left unfinished, he was also up 4-2 at the time of Aragone's triumph. Call it a safety net. And for Boland, this last one stands out for a number of reasons. It's the 10th time he has led Virginia to a No. 1 ranking. In addition, Virginia became one of only four schools to have won three (or more) con- secutive NCAA men's tennis titles, join- ing UCLA (1952-54), Southern California (1962-64, 1966-69, 2009-12) and Stanford (1988-90, 1995-98). It is, however, still the players that reside as the most important part of his tenure. "It's all about the players and the rela- tionships they have with one another and the culture that they have built," Boland said. "I'm just so proud of these guys. They deserve everything they get. They work hard each and every day. "They play for something bigger than themselves, and I'm just so proud to be part of it. I appreciate what these guys have done to allow me to be part of the journey. It's been amazing." ◆ The Cavaliers (2015-17) joined UCLA (1952-54), Southern California (1962-64, 1966-69, 2009-12) and Stanford (1988-90, 1995-98) as the only men's tennis program's to win at least three consecutive NCAA titles. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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