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Cavaliers Capture Tennis National Championship

The Virginia Cavalier Men's Tennis team won its first NCAA National Championship today, defeating UCLA 4-3 in Urbana, Illinois.

Mitchell Frank was the hero of the NCAA Finals match
Mitchell Frank was the hero of the NCAA Finals match
Tim Mulholland

Mitchell Frank dropped to one knee, dropped his racquet, rolled on his back. His teammates swarmed him. Head Coach Brian Boland hugged his wife. The fans cheered. Twitter - or at least U.Va. athletics' little corner of it - exploded.

It had finally happened. After consecutive heart-breaking losses to the Trojans of USC in the NCAA finals, the Virginia Cavalier Men's Tennis team had won the title, defeating UCLA 4-3 on a windy day in Illinois.

It wasn't easy. But then again, we all knew that would be the case, right?

With the match tied at 3-3, it all came down to Mitchell Frank at #3 singles. He had dropped the first set 6-0, a shockingly lopsided defeat. Then he had evened things up with a 6-4 victory in the second set.

The third set had to have some drama of course. Frank's opponent, 22nd ranked Adrian Puget led five games to three and was serving for the championship at 40-30. As he put away the shot and appeared to win it for UCLA, Puget stepped on the net. That's not allowed and so the point was awarded to Frank. The sophomore used the momentum to break Puget and was on serve at 4-5. A hold, another break and another hold gave Frank the win that seemed impossible just minutes before.

Virginia started off strong, taking the doubles point from UCLA by winning 8-2 at #1 doubles and 8-5 at #3. Puget and Karue Sell led 7-4 at #2 doubles for the Bruins when the point was clinched for the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers doubled their lead quickly when Justin Shane defeated Clay Thompson at #5 doubles, 2&2. The lead wouldn't last, however as UCLA took points at #2 singles (Domijian lost 4&4) and #4 singles (Styslinger lost 4&3).

Third-ranked Jarmere Jenkins gave Virginia the lead back when he defeated Dennis Novikov 7-6(3), 6-3 at #1 singles. That left the contest at 3-2 in Virginia's favor, with two matches remaining. The Cavaliers needed just to win one, while the Bruins needed both.

At #6, Julen Uriguen had come back from dropping the first set 6-4 to win the second 6-3 and set up an important third set. Several line calls didn't go his way, however and Uriguen seemed flustered as he fell behind quickly and ended up losing 6-2.

With Virginia and UCLA tied 3-3, it all came down to Frank. His gutsy performance easily cemented himself in the annals of Cavalier sports legends. And it gave the Virginia men's tennis team, its coaches and fans the national title they had been searching for.

The title is the first for the men's tennis team, but the 20th NCAA team title for Virginia in all sports. It's also the fifth title in the last four academic years, an unprecedented stretch in Virginia sports history.