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UK Tennis falls to UVA in National Championship

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Posted at 8:48 PM, May 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-22 23:57:40-04

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.  — The eighth seed Kentucky Wildcats were unable to overcome the seventh seed Virginia Cavaliers in the NCAA Championship title match on Sunday afternoon, falling by a 4-0 result at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Champaign, Illinois.

UK had its best season in program history despite the loss. The Wildcats made its first national title appearance after winning five matches in impressive fashion, including hosting the first and second rounds in Lexington. Kentucky, which was the first eighth-seeded team to advance to the championship final since 2009, now holds a 34-31 record in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky finished its historic season with an overall 26-8 record and tied for second in the Southeastern Conference standings.

“I think we took a big, giant leap forward as a program,” said head coach Cedric Kauffmann. “In a few days, these guys will realize what they did, get back to work and come to try to do this again.”

Two Kentucky athletes were featured on the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team. Liam Draxl was named to the top spot after finishing 2-0 on the weekend, with both wins coming against top-12 opponents in singles. Graduate student Francois Musitelli closed his collegiate career by earning the selection on the fourth position, also going 2-0 in Champaign against ranked opponents.

The match opened in doubles competition, with Virginia claiming commanding leads on courts two and three that proved to be too much to overcome.

Liam Draxl and Alexandre LeBlanc faced off against Gianni Ross and Jeffery Von Der Schulenburg and were unable to find their footing. The UK tandem eventually fell by a 6-1 result. Following them was Gabriel Diallo and Joshua Lapadat, who dropped to Ryan Goetz and Inaki Montes, 6-3, and finished with a 5-3 record in doubles together this season.

Trailing 1-0 in the match, Kentucky found itself in a position it had been in multiple times this season, including the previous five tournament matches. However, unlike the other postseason contests, the Wildcats could not mount a comeback in singles competition.

JJ Mercer was unable to get momentum to swing his way when taking on Bar Botzer on court six. The redshirt sophomore lost his match by a 6-1, 6-1 result.

39th-ranked Inaki Montes, who took on Draxl when the team’s faced off in Lexington earlier this season, was able to avenge his loss in the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center by defeating No. 21 Diallo. The UK junior fell in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, and finished the season 20-4 in dual matches, including 10-3 in the two position.

The Cavaliers clinched the match on court five, with No. 113 Lapadat dropping the final match of his sophomore season by a 6-4, 6-4 result. Lapadat finished the year tied for the most dual match wins on the team with a remarkable 21-4 record.

Although the team competition has concluded, Diallo and Draxl’s postseason will continue at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex on Monday in the individual tournament. The UK juniors will begin play at 6:30 and 7 p.m. ET, respectively.