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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina women’s tennis bested by Florida, 5-2

After losing for the third time in one year to No. 2 Florida, including a loss in the Final Four last year, the No. 4 North Carolina women’s tennis team may be looking for a silver lining.

The Tar Heels should look no further than sophomore Lauren McHale.

McHale was the only Tar Heel who did not suffer a defeat in UNC’s 5-2 loss after winning in both doubles and singles play. More impressive, though, were the opponents she beat.

McHale and Shinann Featherston are the eighth-ranked doubles team in the country and typically favored to win. But not against the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the country.

Florida freshman Sofie Oyen and sophomore Allie Will were on a 14-match winning streak, the ninth-longest in Florida team history, but they were no match for Featherston and McHale, falling 8-3.

“We have been working really hard coming in early to practice and working on doubles so it has paid off,” McHale said.

What might have been even more impressive was how easily McHale and Featherston were able to control the rallies and hit winners. McHale attributed the success to the mindset that she had entering the match.

“Before even coming onto the court we both were mentally prepared and were ready to do whatever it took to win the match,” McHale said.

McHale, ranked No. 86 in the country in singles, scored another upset in a gritty come-from-behind victory against No. 22 Olivia Janowicz, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“I was just really proud of her to not get down on herself after losing the first set,” UNC coach Brian Kalbas said. “She played a really good opponent so to do that says a lot about her and her character.”

McHale got off to a slow start in the first set as Janowicz used her backhand to consistently generate winners. McHale knew that she had to adjust and get back to her original strategy.

“I needed to pick on her forehand,” she said. “She was hitting winners left and right in the beginning, and I was just running like crazy.”

In the second and third sets, McHale was able to adjust and control more points by putting pressure on Janowicz to use her forehand, which opened up the court for McHale to come to net. With her backhand struggling, McHale was able to consistently run around balls to get to her powerful forehand.

McHale served well throughout the match and with more slice than she normally does, which she said frustrated Janowicz.

“In order to beat the top players you have to be more aggressive,” she said. “In previous matches I have been more passive and I need to look to come in to the net and play to my strengths more.”

Even though her team lost, McHale said it can still take a lot away from this match.

“This is the No. 2 team, and we saw that we had every single match, and so if we just keep fighting and working hard, we can definitely make it and win NCAAs.”

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