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League tennis & lacrosse Championships offered early dose of NCAA-caliber competition
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – When it comes to spring NCAA Championship competition in tennis and lacrosse, two truths have become self-evident:
Each postseason field will feature an abundance of Atlantic Coast Conference teams, and each of those squads will open play already battle-tested.
The longstanding trend continued earlier this week, when nine men’s teams and eight women’s squads from the ACC earned spots in the 2014 NCAA Tennis Championships. Four league men’s teams earned national seeds, with defending national champion Virginia at No. 4, North Carolina at No. 7, Duke at No. 11 and Notre Dame at No. 13.
On the women’s side, Virginia holds the No. 3 seed, followed by Duke at No. 4, North Carolina at No. 7, Miami at No. 12 and Clemson at No. 13.
The announcement of the NCAA tennis pairings came on Tuesday, two days after Virginia’s men and women swept ACC Championship titles for the first time. Both the 2014 ACC Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championship fields featured seven teams ranked among the nation’s top 30.
“In my four years at Virginia, this is the strongest that the league has ever been,” said Virginia senior Alex Domijan, the nation’s sixth-ranked men’s singles player and the ACC Player of the Year. “You can see it by the results on the court and by the number of teams representing us in the NCAA Championships.”
Last weekend’s hard-fought ACC Championships should prepare the league’s NCAA postseason tennis competitors well. The same hold true for both ACC men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, which annually compete in national power-filled league championship tournaments that rival or surpass the NCAA Championships in degree of difficulty.
“I think this is obviously a difficult weekend, and we embrace that,’” North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said after her defending NCAA champions dropped a hard-fought 9-7 decision to Syracuse in the semifinals of last week’s ACC Women’s Lacrosse Championship at Chestnut Hill, Mass. I don't think you'll see a tougher weekend.”
Levy said the ACC Championship has the same feel as a national final weekend, and her past teams have benefitted accordingly.
“For us, the experience to come, travel with the team and be in a tournament situation with other great teams, opponents and coaches is something we really embrace and it helps prepare going forward into the NCAA Tournament.” Levy said. “If you hit a final four weekend (in the NCAAs), it's not the first time you've felt that, it is not your first go-around in that kind of situation. So the ACC Tournament really helps us prepare for that.
“Obviously, our conference is really tough and I think it's harder to win the ACC at some level than it is to win the national title.”
With the additions of Notre Dame and Syracuse to the ACC Women’s Lacrosse mix, this year’s ACC Championship featured an eight-team format for the first time.
“The ACC has been around (as a women’s lacrosse league) for 18 years – it’s been a long time and the neatest part is to watch it grow,” said Virginia coach Julie Myers. “Every few years we add more teams, all of which are super competitive. To play in the ACC is certainly playing in the toughest conference. The (ACC) tournament is great because you have a chance to pick up some top-10 wins, which is unusual for other conferences in the country. It’s a nice NCAA tournament type feeling at a conference level, which is a great preparation going into postseason in May.”
And then there is ACC Men’s Lacrosse, which set a whole separate standard with all six of its teams ranked among the nation’s top nine in both major polls. First-year member Notre Dame won the ACC Championship last weekend as the tournament’s No. 4 seed, and few expressed even mild surprise. The Fighting Irish entered the event ranked eighth nationally.
Impressive, but not atypical when one considers that only nine programs have won the national title in the entire history of NCAA men’s lacrosse. Five are currently ACC members.