Virginia Athletics Notes: A Big Title, Multiple Teams Advance

Virginia Cavaliers Virginia claimed its first outright ACC Men’s Track & Field Championship. ~ Photo courtesy of Virginia Athletics Media Relations

The spring sports season continues to be a great time to be a Wahoo. Two Virginia teams received good “first time in a long time” news this past weekend, while multiple others have advanced to the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals in postseason play.

Here’s a look at some of that recent news on the Hoos.

Virginia Breakthroughs

Starting first with the “first time in a long time” duo, the UVA softball team and the men’s track and field squad had reasons to celebrate this past weekend.

The diamond Cavaliers tuned in to the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday afternoon and saw their names called with an at-large bid. That gave the program just its second ever NCAA Tournament bid in its history and the first since 2010.

The Cavaliers, who will carry a 32-18 record into the tournament after a fourth place finish in the ACC, drew the No. 2 seed in the Knoxville Regional. They’ll join host Tennessee, the No. 1 seed, as well as Miami of Ohio and Dayton in the pod. Virginia will face Miami (48-7) on Friday at noon, while Tennessee and Dayton follow in Game 2. The two winners and two losers meet the next day in the double elimination format.

UVA won 7 of 8 ACC series it played this season so it knew that it had established good credentials for an at-large bid. Still, Sunday’s announcement brought some joy to Palmer Park.

“We’ve been anticipating this for a week or so and are really excited,” Cavalier coach Joanna Hardin. “We appreciate the proximity to Knoxville and how that aligns with our normal practice routine and travel cadence. I’m happy for this group of seniors who entered college under all the irregularities around COVID and get to close their careers playing for a National Championship in the NCAA Tournament.”

“This is an accomplishment that was a long time coming – this is a result of years of dedication from a lot of amazing people,” Virginia senior catcher Leah Boggs said. “It just proves that if you invest in women’s sports, success will follow. We are so grateful for everything this game has given us. For the first time in a long time, and for only the second time in program history, UVA softball is going to the NCAA Tournament and setting the standard for the future of this program. We weren’t surprised and we aren’t done yet.”

The night before the softball team got a chance to celebrate, the UVA men’s track and field team did the same in Atlanta. With good reason. The Hoos claimed their first outright ACC Championship by edging out Virginia Tech and North Carolina in the top 3. The only other title in program history was shared with Florida State in 2009.

The title came down to the final event in the 4×400-meter relay. Virginia led by 4 points entering that final relay and secured the team championship with a sixth place finish. Multiple strong performances put the Hoos in that position.

Nate Mountain won the 3000m Steeplechase with Yasin Sado coming in second. Will Anthony took the runner-up spot in the 10,000m and third in the 5,000m. In the 1,500m, Wes Porter and Gary Martin claimed second and fifth respectively, while Alex Sherman came home second in the 400m hurdles. Shane Cohen ran third in the 800m. In the throwing events, Jacob Lemmon (Discus, 2nd), Ethan Robinson (Decathlon, 3rd), and John Fay (Hammer Throw, 3rd) all posted podium finishes.

UVA Tennis Teams Back In Elite Eight

While those two programs celebrated some long-awaited success, the Cavalier tennis teams added to their NCAA Tournament history. The Virginia men’s team, winners of the last two National Championships, advanced to the quarterfinals for the 17th time in the last 19 tourneys. The women’s team made it to the quarterfinals for the fourth time since 2014.

For the men’s team to advance, it needed to battle back against South Carolina after losing the doubles point on Friday. The Gamecocks had defeated the Hoos, 4-3, back on Jan. 21 even without taking the crucial doubles point so the comeback would be a challenge.

The Cavaliers got it done by a 4-1 score, though, as Inaki Montes, Dylan Dietrich, Jeffrey Von der Schulenburg, and Mans Dahlberg won at No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 6 respectively. Montes did not play in the January singles matches so that played a key role in this rematch, while Dietrich rallied from a first set loss to get his point for the team.

The Hoos face Wake Forest in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in their next match.

“Really proud of our guys in terms of the way we competed, especially after doubles,” UVA coach Andres Pedroso said. “South Carolina just outplayed us in doubles today, and our guys were unfazed. You could see it on all the courts. Every guy was just locked in, and they knew what they had to do. We still had tough moments in the middle of singles, but they just stayed focused and stayed the course and that’s what this team does. So a good win for us. Our total focus now is on Stillwater.”

In the women’s match Saturday, Virginia took the less stressful path to a 4-1 victory by winning the doubles point first. Natasha Subhash and Hibah Shaikh won at No. 2, while Sara Ziodato and Meggie Navarro won at No. 3.

That set the stage for singles where UVA won at No. 3, No. 5, and No. 6 to top Vanderbilt on the team scoreboard. Subhash took the victory at No. 3, while Elaine Chervinsky and Melodie Collard claimed the points at the bottom of the lineup. Collard mirrored Dietrich by rallying from a first set loss to take the final two sets and the victory.

Virginia will take on Texas A&M in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Friday at 5 p.m.

“I’m just really proud of the entire team,” UVA coach Sara O’Leary said. “I’m so happy for them and happy we could get this win today for our three seniors. So they’ve meant so much to the program and it’s really bittersweet knowing that this is the last time they’ll play on these courts. But for them to finish with that match and this situation, I’m just really proud of them and really happy for them. We’re really excited for this opportunity and to get to keep playing. We’ll use this time today and tomorrow to really recover and then get back to work.”

Another Virginia Ticket Punched

Earlier in the week, another Virginia team secured a spot in the next round of the NCAA Championships too. The UVA women’s golf team secured a spot at the title course for the 14th time in the 21-year history of the program.

To get there, the Hoos needed advanced through the NCAA Regional in Cle Elum, Washington. They claimed a third place finish on Wednesday to earn one of five berths from the site to advance to the National Championship setting. All-American Amanda Sambach led the way with a third place finish individually.

The Cavaliers, along with fellow ACC teams Clemson, Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, and Wake Forest, will play for the National Championship at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California. The 30 teams play 54 holes of stroke play before the top 15 teams move on to a fourth and final round. The top 8 finishers after that round will compete in match play for the team title.

“It was a great week in Washington,” Sambach said. “The conditions were really tough but we did a really great job of taking it one stroke at a time and played really steady. We are so pumped for California and we are ready to compete for a National Championship.”

Note: The Virginia men’s lacrosse team earned an NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal spot too. For coverage of that win, check The Sabre’s coverage here.

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