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The Daily Tar Heel

Men’s tennis competes against Duke in preseason tournament

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The North Carolina men’s tennis team saw its first action of the spring season when it competed in the Duke Invitational tournament this weekend.

North Carolina, Duke, William and Mary and Elon all took part in the preseason tournament, which gave the Tar Heels a first look at their freshmen players and a chance for head coach Sam Paul to get a feel for what his starting lineup might look like.

UNC

UNC was matched up against William and Mary on Saturday and Elon on Sunday. The Tar Heels entered the tournament ranked 20th in the preseason poll, with the Blue Devils coming in at No. 10. Both Elon and William and Mary were unranked in the poll.

The top scorer for the tournament was Torsten Wietoska of Duke with 19 points. UNC freshman Esben Hess-Olesen and junior Jose Hernandez each finished with 16 points and tied for second place with Henrique Cunha of Duke.

Although it was only a preseason tournament, there was a tension among the crowd that can only be felt in a Duke-North Carolina match.

There were a number of disputed calls and both sides fought hard for every last point. UNC coach Paul came away from the tournament impressed with his team’s effort, but cautions that the Tar Heels still have a lot to work on.

“We did some good things and we will learn and watch videotape and teach them,” Paul said. “It is just a long year and we have to keep getting better every single day.”

Hernandez comes into the season as the Tar Heels’ highest-ranked player, at No. 30 in the nation. He won his first two singles matches on Saturday and Sunday but fell on Monday to Cunha, the No. 7-ranked player in the country.

“It is really important for us to get our feet wet,” Hernandez said. “That’s what this tournament is for, to correct and get feedback from coaches and start the season on the right foot.”

Hess-Olesen was the only Tar Heel to win all three of his matches in the tournament, and he understands the importance of starting the season off strong.

“It means a lot to me to gain some confidence from the beginning,” Hess-Olesen said. “It would be hard to start with a loss so I definitely think I am on the right path.”

Hess-Olesen, along with fellow freshman Oystein Steiro, will be asked to contribute early, as both players expect to be in the starting lineup. The Tar Heels’ lineup will have a Scandinavian flavor as Hess-Olesen is from Viby, Denmark, and Steiro hails from Snaroya, Norway.

Hess-Olesen is coming off of a broken wrist in the fall, but he feels that he is now healthy and ready for the season.

“I was really pumped about my first match and we approached it like it was a real dual match, so it was really good for me to get a good start,” Hess-Olesen said.

While the Tar Heels’ freshmen gained valuable experience in the preseason tournament, it may have been a senior that could take the most away from the preseason tournament.

On Monday, senior Brennan Boyajian got a win playing on the second court after his opponent dropped out after the first set. Boyajian beat Duke’s Chris Mengel, a player who is ranked 17th in the preseason polls.

“It definitely felt like a Duke-UNC matchup so hopefully the momentum will carry us forward into the season,” Boyajian said.

The Tar Heels will open the season Saturday against Stanford.

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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