Duo Matches Record In Win Over Navy
by Kris Wright
Houston Barrick and doubles partner Sanam Singh have won 38 times this season.A 30-win season for the third straight season, a doubles team matching a school record, and an NCAA Tournament win. Yes, Friday was a typical day at the office for the Virginia men's tennis team, which cruised past Navy 4-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Snyder Tennis Center. The Cavaliers paired the doubles point with singles wins from Sanam Singh, Michael Shabaz, and Drew Courtney to advance.
"It was great to get out and compete again after almost a three-week lay-off and I think it takes a little bit of time to get back into that real match situation again," UVa coach Brian Boland said. "I thought we responded pretty well. The guys are excited about this tournament and have been for a long time so the anticipation was there. It was just good to be out competing again and I thought we played well."
Virginia, which improved to 30-0 on the season, jumped on Navy quickly by winning the doubles point. The first team to win two doubles matches wins the team doubles point. Dominic Inglot and Shabaz won at No. 1 doubles (8-3 vs. Nate Nelms and Johnny Waters), while Houston Barrick and Singh triumphed at No. 2 (8-3 vs. Jason Hill and Nick Birger) to give UVa the 1-0 lead. The Cavaliers have lost the doubles point just twice this season.
For Barrick and Singh, it was their 38th doubles win of the season. That total matches a Virginia single season record for doubles wins in a season, a mark set just last spring by Treat Huey and Somdev Devvarman. Barrick said the duo didn't know about the mark.
"Their chemistry is good on the court. They're both very aggressive," Boland said. "Houston is the more aggressive of the two, but Sanam makes so many balls and Houston is able to finish. They kind of complement each other really well. Our doubles point has been big point for us all year and given us a lot of momentum."
Sanam Singh won in doubles and singles Friday.Barrick and Singh agreed with their coach, though they didn't necessarily see the success coming so often nor so fast. Barrick said his partner is one of the fastest players on the team, which allows Singh to cover a lot of ground on the baseline. Singh, meanwhile, indicated that Barrick had the fastest hands on the team, an important trait for a volleying machine at the net.
"We just started playing together last year before NCAAs. Honestly, it was kind of random; coach thought we'd be a good pairing because Houston is really good at the net and I like playing from the baseline," Singh said. "We started playing together and gelled really well together. I didn't really think we would do as well as we did. Now that we're playing together, I want to keep going. This is just great."
"Sanam is fast and has great hands as well. He's great from the back. I'm probably not as good from the back, but I volley pretty well," Barrick said. "We both like to think we're pretty good returners. I think we complement each other really well."
Likewise, the Hoos' strength in doubles is a strong complement to a deep and talented singles line-up. Navy coach John Officer said the Cavaliers are a difficult team to play because everyone serves the ball well, making it a tall task to break serve in any match. Inglot sets the tone at No. 1 with his big, booming serve (which Boland guessed clocks regularly in the 120s or 130s in miles per hour) while everyone from Singh through Lee Singer places the ball well too.
"Virginia is the top-ranked team in the country for a reason, and they demonstrated that today," Officer said. "They serve very, very well and play great defense. It is hard to break their serve."
UVa takes on ACC foe North Carolina on Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner advances to the Sweet 16.