After three days of competition at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia, the 2016 ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championship is down to an all-ACC final.
The host and top-seeded Cavaliers will be searching for their sixth ITA Indoors title, while the No. 3 Tar Heels of North Carolina are in their first ITA Indoors final. Monday's championship match gets underway at the Boyd Tinsley Courts at 11 a.m. ET, and will feature live scoring and video here.
The Tar Heels (8-0) earned their spot in the final with a 4-2 victory over No. 7 UCLA on Sunday, while Virginia (8-0) handled No. 5 TCU 4-1 in the other semifinal.
"I think it says a lot about the ACC," said Virginia head coach Brian Boland. "Wake Forest played a tremendous match against us (Saturday) and obviously the success that UNC has had. I'm really just proud to be a part of the conference and excited to play, regardless of the opponent in the final. It's always the goal is to give yourself a chance and tomorrow will be another opportunity for these young men that have worked so hard, and I hope the fans come out again in big numbers."
For the second time in three days, North Carolina's Robert Kelly executed when the pressure was squarely on his shoulders. After clinching UNC's 4-1 victory over No. 14 Texas Tech in the first roundon Friday, Kelly was the point person in Sunday's semifinal tilt with the Bruins.
"Yes, you do get a sense that the match is coming down to your court, but it's not until later," said Kelly. "You just never know with tennis, especially college tennis. You know, Brett (Clark) almost didn't close out that second set, so it would've been him in the third, but yeah, you see everyone come over (to your court) and the crowd picks up. The biggest thing is to just keep my head down and as my coach was saying, 'what was I thinking on that last point?' and I was thinking the same thing I was the first point of the match, slice out wide and then try and attack ... it feels good."
In the No. 5 singles position, Kelly dropped the first set to Logan Staggs 4-6, but rallied to win the second 6-2, setting up a decisive third set. After Anudeep Kodali topped Austin Rapp at No. 6 singles (4-6, 6-3, 6-3) to move the Tar Heels (8-0) within a point of victory, Kelly broke Staggs to clinch the match and set off a jubilant celebration with his teammates on the winning court.
"It's not just this year's team, it's been a steady progress the past couple of years with really good guys and a good team culture," said Kelly, a sophomore. "We enjoy being together and just because I'm the one clinching the match, I'm the one doing all the hard work. There's three other guys that had to win singles (Sunday). We're having fun right now."
Kelly said that he and his teammates are ready to embrace Monday's opportunity to appear in the ITA Indoors final.
"No matter what happens (Monday), even if we win it, we know this is just the beginning of the season and teams are just starting to get together and figure out who is playing where and what the coach is like," Kelly said. "It means a lot and it's going to be a lot of fun. We're going to give it our all, but we're not going to let it get to our heads because we know the teams here, even the teams we beat, are going to be better come ACC and NCAA time."
The Bruins (7-2) darted out to a 1-0 lead after taking the doubles point behind wins at the No. 3 (Maxime Cressey/Karue Sell d. Blaine Boyden/Ronnie Schneider 6-3) and No. 1 (Mackenzie McDonald/Martin Redlicki d. Kelly/Brett Clark 6-4) positions.
In singles, Schneider closed out his No. 2 singles contest against Gage Brymer in straight sets 6-0, 6-4, to even the match 1-1. McDonald moved the Bruins temporarily ahead 2-1 with a 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over Brayden Schnur at No. 1 singles, but UNC's Clark drew his team back even with a 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 3 singles against Redlicki.
The second semifinal pitted the Cavaliers against a game Horned Frogs (5-2) team, fresh off of its dramatic 4-3 win over No. 4 USC in the quarterfinals.
Virginia jumped ahead in doubles with wins at the No. 3 (J.C. Aragone/Collin Altamirano d. Guillermo Nunez/Alex Rybakov 6-3) and No. 2 (Thai-Son Kwiatkowski/Mac Styslinger d. Hudson Blake/Reese Stadler 6-3) positions.
In singles, Henrik Wiersholm topped Trevor Johnson 6-0, 6-2 at No. 6 singles to push the Cavaliers ahead 2-0, and Altamirano defeated Nunez 6-1, 6-4 at No. 3 singles to move the host team within a point of victory.Cameron Norrie of TCU scored an impressive straight-set victory over defending NCAA Singles ChampionRyan Shane at No. 1 singles 7-5, 7-5, but Styslinger closed out the match moments later with a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 4 singles over Eduardo Nava.
"I definitely saw that Ryan took the loss and the other guys out there were battling, so I was really glad to be able to pull that out and get the team into the finals."
Boland has been very pleased with the community support of his Cavaliers, and college tennis, during the ITA Indoors event.
"We've just been so fortunate over the years to have such a tremendous fan base," said Boland. "We're so appreciative of everyone that comes out and supports college tennis. I believe those that haven't been to a college tennis match before and they come out, they see something that they really enjoy and they end up coming back again and again. It takes years to build this type of environment and we've been able to do it through a lot of hard work and it's just been an exciting time for us to see all these people coming out from the University and the community to support college tennis."
Styslinger said the energy from the crowd has been a motivating factor for the UVa players.
"We have some of the best fans in the country," said Styslinger. "It's great to have them come out and support us, it makes a huge difference for all of the guys out on the courts."