Pedroso leads UVA back to summit of men's tennis
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Andres Pedroso saw first hand the start of the Virginia men's tennis dynasty as an associate head coach on the program's first NCAA Championship team in 2013.
Nearly a decade later, Pedroso celebrated with the Cavaliers once again in Champaign, Illinois with the program's fifth NCAA title.
When Pedroso returned to Charlottesville in 2017 to take over a program coming off four national championships in five years, he knew exactly what the expectations were.
"When you become a member of this program, you immediately have that standard of being in contention for national championships," Pedroso said on Wednesday, "And in order to do that, you have to do a lot of things right off the court, on the court."
Upon Pedroso's return, the Cavaliers were a young program and had to rebuild with only two upperclassmen on the roster. By his second season, Pedroso had Virginia in the NCAA Quarterfinals, the program's best finish before the 2022 season. In year four UVA hoisted the first ACC regular season and tournament titles under Pedroso and finally the program began to resemble the powerhouse it grew to be when he was an assistant.
"I've been talking to these guys about past teams, past UVA teams throughout their four or five years at UVA and they might be sick of hearing about it and now they get to do it themselves," Pedroso said.
The Cavaliers started Pedroso's fifth season at No. 7 in the country with the talent to compete at the top level, but their ambitions were put to the test immediately. Virginia lost five-straight matches to preseason top-six teams in Ohio State, Baylor, twice to TCU and defending national champions Florida.
Pedroso remembers after the 4-0 loss to Ohio State, the only match this season Virginia did not record a win, the team had one of their best practices of the season. Despite four more losses to follow, Pedroso felt the team was chipping away and building towards contention.
After the five-match losing streak, Virginia rattled off 23-straight wins, including another sweep of the ACC regular season and tournament championships. With the NCAA Tournament approaching, Pedroso remembered a quote from new UVA football coach Tony Elliott, "to become champions, you have to beat champions" and reminded his team they were always building towards an NCAA Quarterfinals matchup with the defending champions, Florida.
Virginia eventually claimed a 4-1 victory over Florida, which players say provided the catalyst to go on to sweep both Tennessee and Kentucky to claim the program's fifth NCAA Championship and the first for Pedroso as head coach.
"It lifts some pressure off his shoulders because [former Virginia head coach Brian] Boland won three titles or whatever and then coach, but coach, he was so great," sophomore Jeffrey von der Schulenburg said, "Winning the title for especially him, if you love people and you can do something because they give so much and if you can give something back to them, it is just so great."
Even more fitting for Pedroso, the player with the clinching point in the NCAA Championship was Gianni Ross, Pedroso's first recruit and one of the few remaining players from his first team at UVA. Ross wound taking home Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament honors and Pedroso the first title on a long road back Virginia men's tennis.
"Getting the title my fifth year is something that is really special because some people never win it," Pedroso said.