In Sunday’s Senior Day match against Clemson, each senior on the North Carolina men’s tennis team got to play together for the first time all season long. And because of their efforts, they grabbed a 6-1 victory in their final home match.
Coach Sam Paul started seniors Cameron Ahari, Brennan Boyajian, Joey Burkhardt, Zach Hunter and Alex Rafiee in UNC’s doubles matches and held a ceremony for them between the doubles and singles matches.
It paid off to play all the seniors in doubles, as UNC started off the match by earning the doubles point for the first time in four matches.
“They’ve accomplished a lot, they’ve grown up a lot, they’ve worked really hard and most importantly, they like each other and fight for each other,” Paul said of his seniors. “They’re a very close group of kids and we’re going to miss them.”
Boyajian and Ahari closed out their first doubles match together with a win against Clemson’s Gerardo Meza and Zachary Rigsby, 9-7. UNC would later secure the doubles point when Jose Hernandez and Burkhardt won against Tigers Yannick Maden and Ayrton Wibowo, 8-6.
Although UNC won the doubles point, the Tar Heels were even more dominant in their singles matches. William Parker was the first to record a singles victory for UNC, winning against Hunter Harrington 6-3, 6-3. Boyajian was next, recording five straight game victories to close out his match against Meza 6-2, 6-2.
The most dominant performance of the day came in the singles match that clinched the team victory for UNC. Burkhardt rattled off eight consecutive game victories and shut out Dominique Maden in the decisive set to win 6-4, 6-0.
In another impressive performance, freshman Oystein Steiro rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the second set to win his match against Rigsby 6-3, 7-5.
Steiro noted that he benefitted from being stuck in his situation.
“Usually when I’m down, I play better, I go bigger,” he said. “I know I have to change something because something is obviously not working. I just started to be more aggressive — I served a little better, made less mistakes and got (Rigsby) on the run.”
Paul said that Steiro’s play was more indicative of his recent form.
“I kept telling him to lay into it, lay into it, lay into it — and it worked,” Paul said. “Oystein is playing better. He’s gaining more confidence as he goes.”
Hernandez finished off the Tar Heel tally with a victory against Yannick Maden.
Paul said it was the best match his team played all year.
Although highly impressed, Paul also stated that he still had plans for his team to improve.
“We’re going to keep working on doubles,” he said. “We’ve been doing some better things. We’ve been making some better shot selections. But we’re getting better. We’re starting to hit our stride.”
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