With his team down 3-2, UNC freshman Jose Hernandez knew that his teammates were counting on him to pull out a victory.
And with their hopes on his back, Hernandez rode the strength of his powerful forehand to secure a three-set victory against Auburn’s Tim Hewitt.
His play keyed a late rally that was just enough to push the No. 23 UNC men’s tennis team past the Tigers on Friday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.
“I saw the scoreboard and I knew that my team needed me,” Hernandez said. “Their support was amazing.”
Hernandez was up 6-2, 5-4 with a chance to serve for the match, but he was broken and went on to lose the second set and six straight games overall.
“I felt in control of the match but I lost the momentum, and I lost my confidence,” Hernandez said.
But Hernandez regained his composure and won six out of the next seven games to take the match 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
“I lost my mind but you just have to keep playing,” Hernandez said. “I just want to make my opponent know that I am there.”
After Hernandez tied the match at 3-3, it was up to senior Andrew Crone to give the Tar Heels the victory. Crone was able to handle the pressure and took his match 7-5, 6-4 to give UNC the 4-3 victory.
The Tar Heels got off to a quick start after sweeping the doubles matches to win the first point.
Senior Clay Donato and junior Stefan Hardy, the No. 54 doubles team in the country, scored a huge win with their defeat of the No. 8 doubles team in the country.
But things went downhill once singles play started. Auburn took three out of the first four singles matches to grab a 3-2 lead overall with only two matches left to play.
Sophomore Brennan Boyajian, who won his match 6-3, 6-2, seemed to be the only Tar Heel who was able to find his rhythm against a pesky Auburn team.
“It feels good to be back outdoors,” Boyajian said.
Coach Sam Paul said the team can take a lot away from a victory like this one.
“The momentum swings will help us going into the ACC season,” Paul said. “It was a pressure match.”
Boyajian also preached the importance of winning a match in which the team was trailing late.
“It was good to know that we can pull out a match like that,” Boyajian said.
With the win, UNC moves to 11-2 and will now play the rest of its matches against conference opponents.
On a day when Donato and Hardy, two of the top three players on the team, struggled in their singles matches, the team showed its depth and was able to fight through the adversity to pull out the win.
“We are a really deep team and they gave us everything we could handle,” Paul said. “What we can control is our heart and our fight and it was a big win for us.”
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