Doubles point costs UNC ACC semis

In the semifinals of the ACC women’s tennis tournament Saturday, one point ultimately cost No. 2 North Carolina its chance to move on to the ACC title game the next day.

UNC surrendered its double point to No. 10 Miami after dropping two of three doubles matches to the Hurricanes.

“We got comfortable,” senior Gina Suarez-Malaguti said. “We were doing well, then we got complacent and let it slip through our fingers. They’re a very tough team, and they’re not going to hand it to us.”

The Tar Heels fell 4-3 in the match to the Hurricanes, notching singles wins from No. 7 Suarez-Malaguti, senior Lauren McHale and freshman Kate Vialle.

But in doubles, Suarez-Malaguti and junior Tessa Lyons relinquished a 5-0 lead and lost 8-6. Then, sophomore Caroline Price and freshman Whitney Kay battled back from down 7-4 to win 9-8. The doubles point was finally decided when senior Zoe De Bruycker and freshman Ashley Dai lost a nailbiter 9-8.

“(Suarez-Malaguti and Lyons) got careless and a little overconfident,” coach Brian Kalbas said. “At 5-1, we were at a game point to go up 6-1, and we missed some easy volleys. Once we lost that lead, we got tentative, hesitant and started pressing.

“That was disappointing because that team of ours has come up big time. Last time we played Miami, the doubles came down to them and they came through.”

In order to win the doubles point, two out of the three doubles courts needs to win their matches. The team with the doubles point can a clear advantage going into singles, needing only three out of six singles to win, rather than four out of six.

McHale took that knowledge to heart in her singles match, coming out with a fiery attitude and a will to win.

“After losing the doubles point, I knew we had to come out strong,” McHale said. “I tried to stay focus, run down every ball and keep fighting.”

Each of the three doubles matches was incredibly close, and had the Tar Heels gotten a different bounce here or there, they may have come out with the doubles win and a spot in the finals.

Even after losing the doubles point, UNC had a chance to win four of the six singles to win the match but in the end, the team were ultimately unsuccessful.

The Tar Heels have accomplished a lot this year with an indoor championship and a conference regular season title under their belt, but they weren’t able to grab another title. Even still, Kalbas says he’s proud of his team and not disappointed.

“The ACC’s a really tough conference,” Kalbas said. “We would’ve liked to have won, but we’ve had a tough stretch getting back late Monday night from Boston.”

Despite glum looks on the women’s faces and some tears, the team found some positives to takeaway from this match that had the feeling of an NCAA tournament match.

“It can help us going forward,” Kalbas said. “We didn’t sense the urgency we needed to. In the two matches we’ve lost in the ACC, we’ve lost the doubles point – that’s something we need to learn from. We didn’t play our best tennis at times, but hopefully this can be a learning lesson for us going forward.”

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