Judging from Sunday's 5-2 loss to No. 5 Duke at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center, a national championship is still possible, but an ACC championship seems unlikely.
The loss by the Tar Heels (19-4, 7-1 in the ACC), combined with a 5-2 win against Clemson (13-9, 5-3) on Friday makes UNC the No. 2 seed in next weekend's ACC Championships.
"Duke is a really tough and deep team," said UNC coach Jen Callen. "To beat them, we all have to play really well."
Duke's win was its 101st out of the last 102 ACC matches. The Blue Devils (21-3, 8-0) will be the No. 1 seed in their quest for a 15th consecutive ACC title.
The only tense moments of the match came during the doubles round when UNC's Kendall Cline and Aniela Mojzis fell to Duke's Amanda Johnson and Julie DeRoo 8-6.
Cline and Mojzis, ranked 36th in the nation in doubles, were behind 7-4, 40-0, but saved three consecutive match points and eventually won the game. After easily winning the next game, the duo was down 40-30 when DeRoo stroked a forehand down the line to seal the match.
With the Tar Heels' No. 1 and No. 3 pairs splitting their matches, the Cline-Mojzis loss meant a 1-0 lead for Duke heading into singles.
At No. 1 singles, Duke's Kelly McCain, No. 3 in the nation, beat No. 28 Marlene Mejia 6-1, 6-4.
Mejia, last year's ACC co-champion at No. 1 singles, dropped her third singles match of the ACC season after going 7-1 last year. She seemed overmatched by the freshman McCain and showed her frustration by arguing with the judge about line calls, behavior a bit out of character for the normally placid Mejia.
Still, Callen believes that Mejia could beat McCain in a possible rematch next weekend.
"(Mejia) felt much better in that second set," Callen said. "It was a lot closer. If she had won that, she could have pulled through and won the match."
Julie Rotondi (at No. 3) and Mojzis (at No. 4) were able to pull through as both won in straight sets.
The lone three-set match was at No. 2 between UNC's Kate Pinchbeck and Duke's Johnson.
Pinchbeck, No. 27 in the nation, carried a 22-0 record into the match while No. 30 Johnson stood at 19-2.
"I had played her last year," Pinchbeck said. "It was a great match, but I lost, so I really wanted to get her this time."
Pinchbeck started strong with a 7-6 first-set win. Johnson, however, dominated the rest of the match. She won the second set 6-1 and the third 6-2, ending Pinchbeck's undefeated run.
"I feel terrible," Pinchbeck said of the broken streak. "I'm tired and angry."
But Pinchbeck was still excited for another crack at Johnson.
"She's up 2-0 now, so I have to get her back," Pinchbeck said.
Revenge will be on the minds of all the Tar Heels when they go to Raleigh for the ACCs next weekend.
Said Callen, "We have nothing to lose."
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