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The Daily Tar Heel

Pinchbeck a Threat to Opponents

So the high school graduate from Edmondson, Australia, grabbed her tennis racket, said goodbye to her family -- which included her father, who coached her since she started seriously playing the sport -- and traveled through Europe, competing in a few tournaments.

Just as Pinchbeck started to realize this wasn't the life she had dreamed of, North Carolina women's tennis coach Roland Thornqvist contacted her.

That was three years ago.

Since then, the rising senior has found her niche on the UNC tennis team, and despite some setbacks, she continues to rise into the national spotlight.

Pinchbeck, who came into the season ranked 14th, finished with a record of 29-3 during the quarterfinals of the individual NCAA women's tennis championships on May 23. She lost to No. 1 seed Bea Bielik of Wake Forest, 6-2, 6-4.

"I knew it was going to be tough," Pinchbeck said. "I really did think I could do it because I was playing really well."

Pinchbeck chuckled as she recalled the intensity of the match, which pinned the 5-foot-2 athlete against Wake Forest's 6-foot junior Bea Bielik. "My serve was definitely not the weapon that hers was," she said. "I wasn't overly frustrated because I was still playing really well."

UNC coach Jen Callen said Pinchbeck, one of the team's captains, played a crucial role in the team's success this year. "She gets all the credit for this year because she has worked so hard and she was a great player last year," she said. "But I think that this year she started to realize her true potential and was more confident."

Pinchbeck attributed her success to the growth she's experienced both as a player and as a student at UNC. She says this season, especially with last year's change of head coaches from Thornqvist to Callen, gave the team an opportunity to meld.

"This season I think the main thing was our team was really close, and that helped with everyone's playing, not just mine, and we've stuck together," she said.

It's that kind of mentality that produced not only a winning year for team, which finished fifth in the nation, but also for Pinchbeck.

"This has definitely the best year she's had at UNC," said Wake Forest women's tennis coach Brian Fleishman. "I think she definitely rose to the level of Chapel Hill tennis this year."

But getting there took some time. During her sophomore year, Pinchbeck was diagnosed with Graves' disease, a thyroid condition that caused her fatigue and elevated her heart rate.

"The specialist said if I would of kept playing I would have a heart attack," she said. "I didn't realize how sick I was until I started getting on my medication and I started to feel well."

It's a condition Pinchbeck will have to continually treat with medication. She is currently on the lowest dosage possible. But Pinchbeck said she bounced back with relative ease.

"Nothing really changed in my attitude from last year," she said. "It's gotten easier the more I've been here in the U.S."

Pinchbeck finished the season ranked 12th in the nation and earned All-American honors for her performance in 2002 NCAA singles competition.

It's this trend that has coaches, such as Fleishman, worried. "I think she's going to be a threat to any team, especially ours since we're in the ACC."

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