Freshmen Ashley Dai and Whitney Kay dominate doubles play

Ashley Dai and Whitney Kay are both freshmen for the North Carolina women’s tennis team, but this weekend in the ITA Kick-Off, they didn’t play like it.

“They’re definitely freshmen by virtue of being first-year players for us,” coach Brian Kalbas said. “But they both have had so much success in doubles in particular.”

The No. 8-ranked duo led UNC’s doubles play by being the first pair to finish off their opponents from both Auburn and Virginia Commonwealth in the two meets UNC played this weekend.

On Saturday, the pair coasted to a 8-3 victory against Pleun Burgmans and Michala Kucharova from Auburn.

Sunday’s match against VCU was an even more dominant 8-1 win against Cindy Chala and Yukako Noi, leaving Kalbas to think that Dai and Kay were playing beyond their freshmen rank.

“It’s difficult at times thinking you’re being led by two freshmen at the top doubles,” Kalbas said. “But they have an incredible doubles IQ and knowledge of the game.”

It wasn’t just the pair’s smarts that led to Kay and Dai’s success this weekend. Kalbas said the pair is good at working as a team.

Both Kay and Dai agreed.

“We complement each other really well,” Dai said. “She keeps me calm, and I keep her pumped.”

Kay claimed that the pair’s success comes at least partially from their ability to stay in sync.

“I feel like we know each other really well on the court,” Kay said. “If I move she knows where I’m going, and she covers me really well.”

While Dai only participated in doubles matches in the two meets, her partner also played two singles matches. Those two matches went unfinished as Kay’s teammates clinched a victory for UNC before she had a chance to complete them.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Kay said. “I was really hoping to finish my match, especially today, but it’s a part of the game.”

Despite winning each of her first sets — 6-4 against Auburn and 6-1 against VCU — Kay struggled in her second sets, falling behind 3-4 on Saturday and being forced to a tiebreaker Sunday.

“In her second sets, her opponents adjusted a little bit,” Kalbas said. “I think she needs to understand the dynamics of college tennis. There are a lot of momentum switches.”

Both freshmen are quickly adjusting to collegiate tennis, leaving Kalbas optimistic about their future.

“They have a chance to be really good if they continue to work as a team and get better,” Kalbas said.

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