UNC cruises past first round of NCAA Tournament

UNC women's tennis dominated South Carolina State Friday, winning 4-0

The North Carolina women’s tennis team (26-3) rebounded from a tough loss against Miami two weeks ago to dominate South Carolina State Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“We’re excited to get back and compete after our last match,” coach Brian Kalbas said. “When you lose a match like that, you want to get right back at it to get that taste out of your mouth. It was a great team effort (today), and everybody played well.”

The Tar Heels raced to the finish line, winning 4-0 in a match that lasted just under two hours at the Cone-Kenfield Center. In comparison, the last match versus Miami lasted more than four and a half hours.

During the doubles portion, UNC got wins from No. 58 Caroline Price and Whitney Kay, and Gina Suarez-Malaguti and Tessa Lyons.

In the singles portion, UNC stormed out of the gate and led five matches by one set after just half an hour. Kay, senior Zoe De Bruycker and junior Tessa Lyons all won their matches.

“We were very focused, and we had a good meeting yesterday,” De Bruycker said. “ (UNC women’s soccer coach) Anson (Dorrance) talked to us, and that pumped us up.”

Coming out with a focused mentality still couldn’t make up for the two weeks off of playing live tennis. In the first few games of doubles, there were some uncharacteristic unforced errors by the Tar Heels.

“We didn’t really know this opponent, and when you don’t know your opponent, it’s a feel out process for the first few games,” Kalbas said.

With exams finishing up earlier this week, the Tar Heels have been able to shift their focus entirely to tennis and the NCAA tournament.

“During exams, we’re all very stressed,” De Bruycker said. “A lot of girls weren’t getting a lot of sleep. Some other teams will be in exams at the main site of the tournament, but we’re lucky so we can just focus on tennis.”

With the win, UNC moves into the second round to face No. 31 Tennessee. The Lady Volunteers defeated VCU in the match right before UNC played. The two teams have some familiarity with each other as they played last year with UNC winning 5-2.

“They’re always well-coached and talented in doubles,” Lyons said. “(Kalbas) definitely prepared us not to take them lightly. We go into every match worrying about ourselves.”

In the match last year, the Lady Volunteers took the doubles point, so the doubles will certainly be a key part of the match Saturday.

“We just got to make sure we come back tomorrow and be very competitive,” Kalbas said. “If we make it a competitive, long-drawn match, that favors us because to me, we get our strength the longer the points, sets and matches are. We’ve been focused not to wear down opponents, but out-compete them. That’s what we’re hoping we can bring tomorrow.”

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