UNC women’s tennis wins ITA tournament


Gina Suarez-Malaguti competes in the ITA Weekend Kick-Off tournament. She helped win the final doubles match for UNC.

After the North Carolina women’s tennis team split the first two doubles matches with Auburn on Saturday, it was up to partners Zoe De Bruycker and Gina Suarez-Malaguti to claim the doubles point for the Tar Heels.

For De Bruycker and Suarez-Malaguti, there was no reason to panic.

“Me and Zoe had been in that situation before, and we like being in that situation,” Suarez-Malaguti said. “We have this thing where we look at each other and we know that we’re going to get it.”

The Tar Heel pair calmly took care of business. But it was the only time all weekend that the outcome of a point — awarded to a team with a singles win or best-out-of-three doubles win — was in jeopardy.

The Tar Heels dropped Auburn 4-0 on Saturday, and defeated Virginia Commonwealth by the same score on Sunday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center to win the ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournament.

The victories qualified the team for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va.

The eighth-ranked Tar Heels were overwhelming favorites against both Auburn and VCU, and coach Brian Kalbas said he was pleased to see that his team didn’t play down to their opponents’ level of competition.

“Sometimes when you’re favored to win early in the season, you have a tendency to play down to a level and play a little bit scared,” Kalbas said. “But we didn’t do that this weekend.”

Despite being one-sided, the tournament was good preparation for the indoor championships, which begin Feb. 8.

“There are some regions where the teams coming in are not as difficult,” Kalbas said. “But Auburn and VCU are very good teams. Having these good, competitive matches helps us a lot.”

But this weekend’s tournament was hardly competitive.

The Tar Heels were led by sophomore Caroline Price, who despite not playing for more than a month due to injuries, showed no signs of rust — she was the first Tar Heel off the court on both days.

“I haven’t played in a while so I was just happy to be out there,” Price said. “I didn’t necessarily think I played really well. But mentally, I felt 100 percent even though physically I wasn’t 100 percent.”

After improving their dual match record to 4-0, the Tar Heels are confident they are hitting their stride.

“I try not to look at the scoreboard that much, but every time I was looking up we were winning,” Suarez-Malaguti said. “It was encouraging because most of (the team) are sophomores and freshmen. The team’s doing awesome.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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