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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC easily disposes of Elon, Winthrop

After a trip to the Final Four last season and a No. 6 preseason ranking, the North Carolina women’s tennis team has high expectations for this year.

The team did not disappoint in the first dual match of the spring season, a doubleheader against Winthrop and Elon at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Saturday, with the Tar Heels easily winning both matches 7-0.

“I was impressed with everybody on our team,” UNC coach Brian Kalbas said. “They stayed focused and organized with their game plans.”

The Tar Heels won two out of the three doubles matches against the 65th-ranked Winthrop Eagles to get the first point.

Shinann Featherston and Lauren McHale, the eighth-ranked doubles team in the country, defeated No. 87 Sandra Herrera and Giovanna Portioli, 8-5, in the top spot.

No. 80 Jelena Durisic and Tessa Lyons topped Andressa Garcia and Elizaveta Zaytseva, 8-0, at second doubles.

The only loss of the day came in third doubles with Yasmine Alkema and Julia Breuss squeaking by Haley Hemm and Zoe De Bruycker in a tiebreak, 9-8 (2).

The Tar Heels then swept the singles matches with the only close match involving No. 86 McHale, who rallied from a second set deficit to win in a tiebreak, 6-1, 7-6 (8).

“Winthrop is a very dangerous team, especially for your opening match,” Kalbas said. “They routinely win their conference and make the NCAA tournament so it was a good first match for us.”

UNC was even more impressive in the second match against Elon, winning all three doubles matches.

In singles play, the Tar Heels were dominant. No UNC player surrendered more than three games in a single set, and the team combined to win 72 of 85 games against the Phoenix.

Kalbas is still experimenting with different positions to get a better idea of where players will fit on the team.

“Really all of our players right now are pretty even,” Kalbas said. “We don’t have a pecking order. We are just trying to give different players different chances at different positions.”

Sophomore De Bruycker, the team’s highest-ranked singles player at No. 13, fought through injuries to both her quad and her elbow to defeat Frida Jansaker, 6-1, 6-0.

“Zoe has never played No. 1,” Kalbas said.

“She played as high as four last year and really at the end of the year was playing six, so it was a huge jump for her more mentally than anything else.”

If the first two matches are any indication, it appears that De Bruycker will handle the No. 1 spot just fine.

“It felt good playing at one,” De Bruycker said. “It helped to build my confidence and get into a rhythm.”

Four Tar Heels — McHale, Laura Slater, Lyons and Jennifer Stone — got the first wins of their UNC careers on Saturday.

“Our schedule the next four weeks is going to be brutal,” Kalbas said.

“We play roughly six teams in the top ten over the next month and a half, so I think it is really important that we got some confidence builders with these matches.”

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The Tar Heels will now shift their focus to next weekend when they will host the ITA Kickoff weekend in Chapel Hill.

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