Current Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2014 07:50:13 -0400
The No. 18 North Carolina men’s tennis team fell short in the championship game of the ITA Kick-Off, losing 4-1 to No. 19 Tennessee on Saturday in Urbana, Ill.
The Tar Heels were able to mount a comeback against Tulsa on Friday and took the match 4-3, but could not repeat the process against a Tennessee team that returned all of its players from last season.
The Volunteers handed UNC its first loss of the season while improving to a 9-0 record and dropping North Carolina to 3-1.
Despite the loss, coach Sam Paul said he was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I think it was a really good weekend for us,” Paul said. “Tennessee played very well, we didn’t play as well but we had our chances in that match — we had our opportunities … so I think we learned a lot from that match.”
A doubles win, followed by back-to-back singles wins gave Tennessee a 3-0 start that was too much for the Tar Heels to overcome.
Sophomore Oystein Steiro gave the Heels their only point with a 7-5, 6-2 singles win against John Collins, but it wasn’t enough to challenge Tennessee for the win.
No. 58 Nelson Vick, No. 102 William Parker and Maik Ulrich all lost their singles matches while two of three North Carolina doubles teams lost.
But the weekend didn’t bring all bad news for the team. On Friday, the Tar Heels came from behind to take down a talented No. 24 Tulsa team.
“We had a great win (Friday),” Paul said. “Tulsa had a very good team … they came out and beat Illinois the very next day.
“I have been really pleased with their work ethic and dedication. They are all on the same page. We are just looking forward to getting back to work (Monday).”
Parker, one of the team’s two seniors, also said the loss could help the team in the long run.
“We did all right in singles. We have to get better in doubles and get the doubles point,” Parker said.
“That’s the main goal for the next match that’s coming up. We lost doubles in the first match but we showed a lot of character and came back in the singles match against Tulsa. We had our chances against Tennessee but we didn’t take advantage of it.”
UNC lost two doubles matches against both Tulsa and Tennessee while Brett Clark and Parker led both of their matches but did not finish.
Parker said he hopes the team can take these losses and make them building blocks for the young season.
“The loss — even though it’s not fun — it will drive us for the future, it will drive us to get better,” he said. “The motivation is there.
“It’s a long season, a lot can happen.”
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