The match was decided by a tie-breaker in the third set of Tar Heel Kate Pinchbeck's match against Duke's Amanda Johnson, ranked No. 18 in the ITA.
As UNC sophomore Marlene Mejia wrapped up a 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) win, Pinchbeck and Johnson were beginning the third set of a match that had already become exhaustive.
Pinchbeck had lost the first set 7-5. Then she fought back to earn a 7-6 second set in a 9-7 tie-breaker.
As the third set began, Pinchbeck didn't seem to be feeling the pressure. She played as efficiently and smartly as she had in her first two sets.
The last set became a test of endurance and versatility.
"There wasn't a better person to be put in that position," said Kendrick Bunn, Pinchbeck's doubles partner.
Pinchbeck and Johnson rallied fiercely, both with quick feet and strong arms.
Despite her obvious exhaustion, Pinchbeck did a tremendous job at getting to the ball and making big plays.
"She's our little Rudy. She's '5 feet -nothing, 100-nothing' but she's all heart," said Mejia, referring to Pinchbeck's favorite movie.
With a killer down line backhand, Pinchbeck was able to snatch points from Johnson.
But Johnson made Pinchbeck work for every point. She kept Pinchbeck running until, with the set score at 3-5 in Duke's favor, it seemed like Pinchbeck might have been finished.
But Pinchbeck dug deep and tied the set up at 5-5.
And thus the two proceed to the logical conclusion of their battle -- another tie-breaker.
Johnson used a backhand shot to the left corner to secure the win for herself, and the match for Duke 7-5, 6-7 (9-7),
"Kate didn't make any errors, (Johnson) just hit some winners," Mejia said. "It's disappointing, but we know she gave it her all."
Pinchbeck declined to be interviewed after the match.
UNC coach Roland Thornqvist said that despite the disappointment of the loss, he hopes the team can take something positive from the match."
"(Duke) is one of the favorites to win the National Championships and we're a point away from beating them," Thornqvist said. "If we play our best tennis and take care of our business the rest of the way, we should be able to see the one more time."
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