UNC has strong showing at Kitty Harrison Invitational

While half the North Carolina women’s tennis team was playing in New York at the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, the remaining three players were charged with putting on a good show back in Chapel Hill.

UNC hosted nine teams — including four from the ACC — at the ninth annual Kitty Harrison Invitational this weekend.

The Tar Heel trio that remained in Chapel Hill failed to win any individual titles, but placed well.

Senior Lauren McHale finished in second place in the Blue Singles Draw, while junior Tessa Lyons came in third place. But on Saturday, they teamed up to win the doubles final.

McHale has been battling for the past few months on and off the court, coach Brian Kalbas said. After nursing a fractured foot during the summer, she fought through another illness this week.

“It was really nice to be out on the court and see it all paying off now. I’ve been working very hard to get better. I gave it my all,” McHale said.

McHale’s determination was apparent Sunday. She screamed, “Come on!” after many of her points to keep herself motivated on the court.

“Lauren was sick most of the week with flu-like symptoms. She didn’t practice much,” Kalbas said. “For her to get to the finals and have a chance to win it against a very good player was an impressive showing.”

McHale lost in the final, going down 5-7, 7-6 (2), 7-5 to Duke senior Mary Clayton, the No. 44 player in the nation. Clayton had defeated Lyons in the semifinals on Saturday in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1.

Lyons rebounded from her Saturday loss to win the third-place matchup against Duke’s Annie Mulholland.

“Tessa winning third place after losing to Clayton was a very good performance,” Kalbas said.

The doubles performance by McHale and Lyons was impressive as well, but not unexpected.

“Tessa and I are new doubles partners,” McHale said. “I think we complement each other well on the court. She sets me up and I try to be as aggressive as possible. I knew we could do it,” McHale said.

After trailing 5-1 in the first round of the Blue Draw doubles competition, Lyons and McHale rebounded nicely.

Junior Laura Slater finished fourth in the White Singles Draw, narrowly losing to William & Mary’s Anik Cepeda in a third-set tiebreak.

Though the Tar Heels failed to come away with an individual title, the feeling around the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center was positive.

“I thought it was a great tournament,” Kalbas said after the action Sunday. “It was a good way to finish the fall.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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