Virginia finally took that last step and won an NCAA men’s tennis championship.
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After losing in the championship match the last two seasons, the second-seeded Cavaliers defeated top-seeded UCLA 4-3 Tuesday to win their first NCAA title after the Bruins let a potential match point slip away.
”Outside of having four children with a great wife, it’s the next best feeling I’ve had in my life,” Virginia coach Brian Boland said. ”It’s been a long journey.”
Virginia (30-0) advanced to the national semifinals three times in four seasons before the back-to-back runner-up finishes to USC the last two years.
”People kept telling me, colleagues and friends, that it’s going to happen,” Boland said. ”All I ever told the guys is we have to give ourselves a chance. This time, it worked out for us.”
Mitchell Frank’s come-from-behind 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Adrien Puget sealed it for Virginia. The UCLA junior was called for touching the net on match point. UCLA lost the point and eventually the match.
”We were right there – match point – and thought we won it,” UCLA coach Billy Martin said.
Frank hit a bad pass into the wind, Frank said, but Puget was called for touching the net. Had it not been for the call, the trophy might have been in someone else’s hands.
”It would have been tough,” Frank said, holding the championship trophy moments later. ”I’m glad he touched the net. A couple inches can make the difference.”
Virginia’s Jarmere Jenkins was named most outstanding player after winning No. 1 singles over Dennis Novikov 7-6, 6-3. Justin Shane scored Virginia’s other singles win over Clay Thompson 6-2, 6-2.
UCLA’s Marcos Giron upset Alex Domijan, who was ranked No. 2 nationally, for a 6-4, 6-4 win. The Bruins kept up the pressure as Dennis Mkrtchian scored a 6-4, 6-3 win over Mac Styslinger and Karue Sell defeated Julen Uriguen 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Shane and Uriguen teamed up to clinch the doubles point with an 8-5 win over Alex Brigham and Thompson. Jenkins and Stylinger combined for the Cavaliers’ other doubles win, an 8-2 decision over Giron and Novikov.
Frank trailed 5-3 in the third set.
”I’ve been trained that you can’t worry about the result,” Frank said. ”I said a rhyme to myself. Eyes on the prize, and your mind tells you lies. I said that to myself on a changeover (at 5-4). I couldn’t focus on whether I’d win that game.”
Boland’s celebration included a phone call from his parents, who were unable to attend.
”It was a pretty emotional moment for me to talk to my parents,” he said. ”I’ve been at this game my whole life. This was a dream, to try to win a championship.”
UCLA ranks third all-time with 16 NCAA titles, and the Bruins came within one point of their first championship since 2005 before the net violation.
”We were starting to celebrate ourselves,” Martin said. ” I’m sure they didn’t make the wrong call. It’s just hard to imagine we were that close but didn’t get it.”