The University of Virginia’s 2016-17 academic term may have ended May 21 with Final Exercises, but the athletic year has gone into overtime.
Several Cavalier teams and individual athletes took part in NCAA championship competition over the Memorial Day weekend, led by fourth-year tennis player Thai-Son Kwiatkowski’s NCAA men’s singles championship – the fourth time a Cavalier has won that title.
A few weekend highlights:
Kwiatkowski Wins NCAA Men’s Singles Title
Kwiatkowski was crowned the 2017 NCAA men’s singles champion on Monday after defeating the University of North Carolina’s William Blumberg, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia.
This is the fourth time a Cavalier has won the title, with Kwiatkowski joining Somdev Devvarman (2007 and 2008) and Ryan Shane (2015) as NCAA men’s singles champions. It also comes less than one week after Kwiatkowski helped lead the Cavaliers to their third straight NCAA team championship.
Kwiatkowski’s championship also means he will earn an automatic bid into the main draw of the 2017 U.S. Open.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet, but I have so many emotions right now,” Kwiatkowski said. “I’m so happy with how I competed today. There were so many adversity moments before and after the match. Before the match, I was almost crying with how nervous I was. Now I am happy and sad because I know that as soon as I get to the locker room and I take this shirt off, I’m not going to put it on and play in the orange and blue anymore. It’s a big, weird moment for me.”
The two players traded service breaks in the first set, putting the scoring back on serve until Kwiatkowski broke Blumberg to go up 5-4; he then held serve to win the first set, 6-4. In the second set, both players again traded breaks in the middle of the set, but it finished in a 6-6 deadlock, forcing a tiebreaker. The two players battled back-and-forth to a 5-5 tie with Kwiatkowski winning the final two points to take the tiebreaker and win the match.
“I was very happy that last return went in,” Kwiatkowski said. “I tried to be very respectful to the UNC guys because Will had an incredible tournament.”
This was the fourth time this year that Kwiatkowski had faced Blumberg, the ACC Freshman of the Year, Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA team tournament and the ITA National Rookie of the Year. The two played one another one week prior in the final of the NCAA team championship, with Blumberg winning 6-3, 6-2; Blumberg prevailed as well in the ACC Championship semifinals, while their meeting at ITA National Team Indoor Championships was abandoned in the third set before completion.
“Will really took it to me when we went indoors last week,” Kwiatkowski said. “Today I felt that the coaches gave me a really good game plan, one that was different than what we had before. I just went out and tried to fight as hard as I could. I tried to play one point at a time and it’s pretty amazing what happened out there.”
This was the third time Kwiatkowski played in the NCAA singles tournament, but it was his first trip to the finals. Kwiatkowski ends his career having won an NCAA singles championship; three straight NCAA team championships, including being named the MVP of the 2016 tournament; an ITA National Team Indoors title; three ACC Championships; and the singles and doubles titles last season at the ITA All-American. He finishes his collegiate career with a 136-24 record in singles and a 95-21 mark in doubles.
Cavalier Baseball Team to Compete in NCAA Fort Worth Regional
The UVA baseball team opens the 2017 NCAA Baseball Championship Friday at 4 p.m. EDT when it plays Dallas Baptist University in the NCAA Fort Worth Regional at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. The game will air on ESPNU. Virginia (42-14), the No. 2 seed in the regional, has reached the NCAA tournament for the 14th straight year, the fourth-longest active streak in Division I baseball.
Following the Virginia-Dallas Baptist game Friday, regional host and No. 6 national seed Texas Christian University plays Central Connecticut State at 9 p.m. (Click here for the complete schedule.)
All games in the regional will be broadcast online on ESPN3. Television selections will be made following the conclusion of play each day.
The winner of the Fort Worth Regional will advance to play the champion of the Fayetteville Regional (which includes host Arkansas, Missouri State, Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts) in the NCAA Super Regional round, scheduled for June 9-12.
Making its 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament in as many seasons under head coach Brian O’Connor, the Cavaliers are tournament-bound for the 17th time in program history. Virginia won its final six ACC series and went 22-7 since the start of April. The Cavaliers finished second in the ACC Coastal Division and boast one of the nation’s premier offenses. Virginia ranks fifth nationally in batting at .324 and has hit 60 home runs, fourth-most in program history.
Dallas Baptist (40-19, 15-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference) won its conference championship Sunday with a 10-6 victory over Illinois State to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
An at-large selection to the tournament, No. 1 seed Texas Christian University (42-16, 16-8 Big 12) tied Texas Tech for the Big 12 regular-season championship and went 23-4 at home this year. UVA and TCU have met just once previously, a 3-2 Virginia victory in 15 innings at the 2014 College World Series.
Central Connecticut State (36-20, 21-7 Northeast Conference) captured its conference championship Sunday with a 6-3 win over Sacred Heart University. Virginia and CCSU played a three-game series in Charlottesville in 2004 in O’Connor’s first season at UVA, with UVA sweeping the series – the lone meetings between the two teams.
UVA Men’s Golfers Finish Program-Best 10th at NCAA Championships
In Sugar Grove, Illinois, the 18th-ranked Virginia men’s golf team finished the fourth round of the NCAA Championships in 10th place, but failed to advance to the eight-team match-play round that will determine the national champion.
Playing in conditions that included winds gusting to between 20 and 30 mph, Virginia shot 19-over-par 307 during Monday’s final round of stroke play for a 72-hole total of 10-over 1,162. The eight teams to qualify for match play were Vanderbilt (1,139), Oklahoma (1,151), Illinois (1,154), Oklahoma State (1,155), Oregon (1,158), USC (1,158), Baylor (1,159) and UNLV (1,159). LSU was ninth at 1,161.
UVA was led by senior Jimmy Stanger, who placed 11th overall at 2-under 286. He shot 5-over 77 during the final round. Sophomore Thomas Walsh was 28th at 4-over 290, senior Derek Bard was 43rd at 294, junior Danny Walker was 51st at 296 and freshman Luke Schaap was 80th at 310.
Virginia started the day tied for seventh, but could not make a climb up the leaderboard. With the rest of the field also posting high numbers in the windy conditions, UVA remained near the cut line until Stanger and Walker both posted double bogey on the par-5 seventh hole. Aside from Bard’s strong finish, no UVA player managed a birdie over the team’s final seven holes. UVA’s four counting players’ combined score was 12-over par over the final seven holes.
“We had a great opportunity with seven holes to go, but unfortunately we didn’t capitalize,” Virginia coach Bowen Sargent said.
UVA’s previous best NCAA Championship showing was 11th place in 1946 and 2010. Stanger’s showing was the fifth-best by a Cavalier at the event. Virginia’s finish was the best among the five ACC schools that qualified for the championship.
“To have won four tournaments this year and have the best finish in the history of our program at NCAAs is a credit to the work and effort these young men put in over the course of the year,” Sargent said. “I’m saddened for our seniors Jimmy Stanger and Derek Bard that we did not reach our team goal of match play.”
The tournament marked the end of the careers of Bard and Stanger, two of the most decorated players in UVA history. Bard earned All-American honors as a junior and was a three-time All-ACC pick. Stanger was a two-time All-ACC pick. Both golfers also excelled in the classroom and were named to the ACC All-Academic team multiple times. Bard and Stanger each won three collegiate tournaments during their career.
“I am very grateful to Jimmy and Derek for their leadership both on and off the golf course over the last four years,” Sargent said. “Both will walk away as All-Americans both academically and athletically. I could not be prouder of our two fourth-years. I’m excited to see what their future holds. I think both will go on to have excellent professional careers and I will be their biggest supporter along the way.
“I hope my future has more players with the same leadership abilities. They’ve certainly set the bar for the future of this program by their work ethic, disciplined approach and standard for success.”
UVA Places 11th at NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships
Virginia rowed to an 11th-place finish in the team standings at the NCAA Championships, which concluded Sunday on Mercer Lake in West Windsor Township, N.J.
Virginia’s varsity four and varsity eight each placed 10th overall, while the second varsity eight placed 12th on final-day action.
Washington won the event with 132 points and became the first women’s program in NCAA Division I to win all three races at the event. California (123), Michigan (112), Texas (108), Ohio State (106) and Stanford (105) rounded out the top six. Yale (96), Brown (91), Wisconsin (86), Princeton (85), Virginia (74) and Indiana (62) completed the top 12. The 11th-place showing marked UVA’s lowest in 20 NCAA championship appearances.
“The kids raced hard and left it all on the water today,” Cavalier head coach Kevin Sauer said. “We finished 11th and that’s not where we want to be, but it is where we are. It was a tough championship, it really was. We made some improvements from the beginning of the year. It’s just a great group of kids who work really hard and they responded to adversity really well. This championship was a learning experience for all of us and we’ll be better for it.”
The varsity four placed fourth in the petite final and 10th overall. Wisconsin won the heat at 7 minutes, 26.277 seconds, followed by Yale (7:27.617), Stanford (7:30.875), UVA (7:37.187), Syracuse (7:43.588) and Iowa (7:43.903).
UVA’s second varsity eight placed sixth in the petite final and 12th overall. Texas won the race at 6:48.403, followed by Yale (6:49.793), Stanford (6:50.22), Princeton (6:51.088), Syracuse (6:56.138) and Virginia (6:56.760).
In the varsity eight, the Cavaliers placed fourth in the petite final and 10th overall. Ohio State won the heat at 6:45.654, followed by Brown (6:47.459), Princeton (6:47.813), UVA (6:49.534), Wisconsin (6:50.566) and Indiana (6:55.128).
Cavaliers To Be Well-Represented in NCAA Track Meet
In Lexington, Kentucky, five members of the fourth-ranked Cavalier men’s track and field team qualified for the NCAA Championships in seven total events over the weekend in the NCAA East Regional meet, while the women’s team had one qualifier. All six of UVA’s qualifiers will compete in field events.
Each individual event (excluding the heptathlon and decathlon) had 48 competitors, while relays had 24 teams. The top 12 from every event moved on to the NCAA Outdoor Championships, to be held June 7-10 in Eugene, Oregon.
Freshman Jordan Scott qualified for the NCAA Championships on Sunday after finishing third in the triple jump, recording a distance of 15.96 meters (52 feet, 4.5 inches).
Two Cavaliers qualified for the championships in the discus. Senior Jordan Young finished second with a season-best mark of 61.43 meters (201-6). Senior Filip Mihaljevic recorded a mark of 58.55 meters (192-1) to take seventh overall.
On Friday, the Cavaliers placed two student-athletes in the top 12 in the shot put. Mihaljevic placed fourth with a mark of 19.60 meters (64-3.75), while redshirt sophomore Oghenakpobo Efekoro placed 12th with an effort of 18.41 meters (60.75).
On Thursday, UVA qualified two student-athletes for the NCAA Championships in the hammer throw. Sophomore Hilmar Jonsson placed second with a distance of 70.60 meters (231-7), a season best. Young finished ninth in the event with a mark of 68.41 meters (224-5). He also recorded a season best with the throw.
Senior Christine Bohan was the women’s team’s only NCAA qualifier. She threw a mark of 16.51 meters (54-2) in the shot put on Saturday to finish eighth overall.