Despite early injuries to its top two singles players, No. 19 men’s tennis came on strong down the home stretch to finish second in the ACC, upset No. 10 Florida at the Gainesville Regional and reached its second Sweet 16 in four years.
Down 3-0 to the rival Gators (18-9), the Canes (16-9) rallied off four straight singles victories to clinch a trip to College Station, Texas against UCLA. The Bruins (21-5) would beat the Hurricanes 4-1.
“Every season is different but we had goals for our team and one of them was to be in the Sweet 16,” fifth-year head coach Mario Rincon said. “It was something great for our team.”
Sparked by the return of injured seniors Daniel Vallverdu and David Rosenfeld, UM emerged as a team to be reckoned in the ACC, almost upsetting top-ranked Virginia, 4-3.
“That was probably one of our turning points on the year when we started winning and had more confidence,” Rosenfeld said.
After beginning the season 6-6, the Hurricanes finished 10-3, which included a six-match win streak.
“It was tough for David and I being injured for a few months, but then we started playing better and we went on a roll,” said Vallverdu, who was a five-time All-American and ranked 13th in the nation. “The sophomores – especially Calle [Carl Sundberg] and Keith [Crowley] – they started playing a lot better and it helped.”
Crowley and freshman Ignacio Taboada each reeled off eight consecutive victories during the season.
Taboada, who tied Crowley for most wins on the team with 23, became just one of nine freshmen to hit that mark in program history.
“The biggest thing for my success was every practice and match giving 100 percent effort and enjoying my time on the court,” he said.
Even with the loss of Vallverdu and Rosenfeld, the team remains optimistic with five seniors. Rincon hopes that the success of Crowley and Taboada rubs off on the other players next season.
“That’s something that we expected from them,” he said. “I’m sure others will step up. If they do, that means we’re doing something right. It’s a moment that we’re always waiting for. For them to put together results.”