Phoenix, Spartans no match for Tar Heels


Tessa Lyons won two singles matches and a doubles match on Wednesday in UNC’s home opener, a doubleheader.

North Carolina women’s tennis coach Brian Kalbas has seen the nine women on his team take great strides in the fall individual tournament season, but Wednesday against UNC-Greensboro and Elon the Tar Heels were finally tested as a team.

Consider that test emphatically passed.

UNC was dominant all day as they dropped just one set throughout the doubleheader and won the overall game count by more than 100.

Kalbas said his team is one of the most talented in his 10-year tenure, and he believes this group of women has a chance to have a very special season.

The next test for the Tar Heels was to see if they could come together as a team.

UNC dismantled local foes UNC-Greensboro and Elon by a combined team score of 14-0 on their way to a 2-0 start to the dual match season, in which they play as a team.

“I’m just really happy to get the dual match season started,” Kalbas said. “Overall, I think it was a really good experience for everybody, and I think everybody played really well.”

The Tar Heels shut out UNC-G 7-0 at 2 p.m., and then they did the same to the Phoenix five hours later.

Playing in her first ever dual match, UNC freshman Whitney Kay came away with victories in singles and doubles against the Spartans but was more excited about finally taking the court with her teammates.

“I think it’s great having the whole team behind you,” Kay said. “There’s a lot of energy, excitement and support.”

Ordinarily, Kay teams with fellow freshman Ashley Dai to form the eighth-ranked doubles team in the nation.

But due to the demanding doubleheader and absence of senior captain Zoe De Bruycker, who took the day off to rest, Dai combined with senior Lauren McHale for a victory over Elon’s No. 1 doubles team and dropped only five games en route to her two singles victories.

Dai couldn’t stop smiling while talking about her first dual match experience.

“I’ve never had more fun in my life,” she said.

“I’ve played some team events in juniors, but it’s not the same when you’re representing your school. To be able to play side-by-side with them was just incredible and so much fun.”

But Kalbas said there are still areas where the Tar Heels can improve.

“We need to cut down on the unforced errors,” he said. “I think we can get a lot better in doubles and continue to work to find the best possible combinations to win that doubles point.”

Kalbas will be harping on those topics in Thursday’s practice, but on Wednesday night he was just happy to see his players come together.

“You can see that our team likes each other, they support each other, and when their match is over, they are quickly going over to support their teammates,” he said. “It’s definitely a fun atmosphere. They really enjoyed it today — definitely fun for us coaches.”

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