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The Daily Tar Heel

Picking up a teammate when she's down, being a liaison between the players and the coaches, running errands for the team -- those are all well and good.

But being able to pack a perfect snowball and pelt the coach in the head with it, that is what makes Kate Pinchbeck a special leader.

"It was snowing, and we were all in the van freezing," said Pinchbeck, the junior co-captain of the North Carolina women's tennis team. "And Jen (Callen) is out there talking, so I said, 'Let's all get these snowballs and throw them at her.'"

Said Callen, the first-year UNC coach: "It was unfair. It was a surprise attack."

But it was just what the team needed after a grueling tournament in Madison, Wis.

Held from Feb. 8-10, the National ITA Indoor Tennis Tournament hosted the nation's best teams. The Tar Heels proved they were one of them by beating two teams ranked in the country's top 15.

The success can be attributed to premium talent, the coaching of Callen and the leadership of players like Pinchbeck.

"I look at her, and it just makes me laugh," said No. 2 singles player Julie Rotondi. "It's unintentional, just the way she is. She's so short, combined with her accent."

Pinchbeck is from Edmonton Park, Australia, and maintains her thick accent. She also has developed a perspective that her coach appreciates.

"She doesn't take winning too seriously; she doesn't take losing too seriously," Callen said. "But she is a very serious competitor."

She is also a very successful competitor. After the fall season, she was ranked No. 37 in the ITA polls. Playing mostly at No. 3 singles this year, she is 7-0, including a win over Duke's Julie DeRoo, ranked No. 15 in the country.

Pinchbeck's ascension started last season, which she finished with a 31-8 singles record. But individual glory is not foremost on her mind.

"The care she has for her teammates is obvious," Callen said. "It shows in her cheering and her willingness to always do something extra."

Her mischievous nature is obvious as well. When the flight home from Wisconsin was delayed, she decided to pass the time by working on a documentary.

"We just walked around for four hours with a video camera asking people what they thought about mullets," Rotondi said of her and Pinchbeck's antics.

The role of captain has never sounded so fun.

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu

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