At the ITA/Riviera All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif., last week, sophomore Caroline Price of the North Carolina women’s tennis team turned a former weakness into a strength to reach the round of 16 in the singles main draw.
Price said last season she struggled when down in matches, but at the All-American Championships, a different player emerged.
“She put a premium on focusing on staying in the moment — not too distracted or upset,” coach Brian Kalbas said.
Price dropped her first set in the main draw to Georgia State’s Abigail Tere-Apisah but rallied to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, advancing to the round of 16 behind a powerful serve and an aggressive playing style.
“(Last season) I let a lot of little things bother me, and I would get down on myself,” Price said. “This year, I really focused a lot on not letting anything bother me.”
Price finally fell to Stanford’s Krista Hardebeck 6-4, 6-2 in the round of 16 but said she was pleased to make it that far.
“I was just going to go out there everyday, win or lose, and give everything I had,” Price said. “That’s what I did, and it all came together. It was the most fun I’ve had playing in a while.”
Teammates Lauren McHale and Whitney Kay also qualified for the main draw through automatic qualifiers. UNC, with three players, tied with Florida for the most players in the main draw, which was made up of the top 32 qualifiers.
Kalbas said getting three players into the main draw was a great display of the talent on the team and a showcase of its depth.
Kay, a freshman, was satisfied with the way the team performed in California.
“It’s a very high-level tournament, so I think we did pretty well overall,” Kay said. “It shows that our team plays at a high level. We felt very lucky to have three players playing in it.”
McHale lost in the first round of the main draw to No. 5 Sabrina Santamaria of Southern California (6-1, 6-1), and Kay lost in her opener to Kansas State’s Petra Niedermayerova 7-6 (8), 6-4.
While the team is pleased with its showing at the All-American Championships, it knows there is still much work to be done.
Kalbas mentioned the Tar Heels’ doubles play as an area needing improvement, in addition to nailing down basic skills.
But Price said none of that will make any difference without confidence in her game.
“I need to work more on confidence going in and thinking that I can actually win the big matches,” she said.
And in this weekend’s performance, she gained experience — and confidence — in those big matches.
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