A week after winning the program’s first national championship, the No. 1 North Carolina women’s tennis team ran out of gas against No. 2 Florida, losing 4-2 on Monday.
“I don’t want to make any excuses, but we were definitely tired — mentally and some of us physically,” said senior Gina Suarez-Malaguti.
“Some of us being tired and a little bit out of shape hurt us.”
The loss was UNC’s first in 10 matches this season.
“Everything was wrapped up in the past week, and I guess everything was mentally and physically draining,” UNC coach Brian Kalbas said.
The Tar Heels started the match off well with Suarez-Malaguti and fellow senior Zoe De Bruycker clinching the doubles point in a 9-8 (7-5) win.
But the big doubles win came at a cost.
Kalbas said the two hour-long doubles match wore down Suarez-Malaguti and De Bruycker — UNC’s top two singles players.
UNC was never able to parlay the momentum from the doubles point, and a packed home crowd, into strong singles play.
Seventh-ranked Suarez-Malaguti lost to No. 4 Lauren Embree 4-6, 6-1, 2-6, and No. 30 De Bruycker lost to No. 9 Sofie Oyen 6-3, 1-6, 3-6 in the Gators’ clinching match.
When asked about the balance between competing in doubles and conserving energy for singles, Suarez-Malaguti wasted no time saying that the team always gives full effort in doubles.
“You’ll always find some fuel left in the tank at the end,” she said.
In total, De Bruycker played four and a half hours of tennis. At one point in the second set, Kalbas said De Bruycker said she couldn’t feel her legs.
Suarez-Malaguti said her legs also tired quickly. And she said freshman Whitney Kay is still battling a groin injury sustained more than a week ago.
Sophomore Caroline Price was the lone bright spot in singles with a 6-4, 6-2 win.
The team isn’t interested in moral victories, but players were proud of the effort, even if it was a losing one.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Suarez-Malaguti said. “I’d rather lose to them now than in the championship.”
Though the Tar Heels lost in the vaunted No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle, Kay, who was still fighting in the third set when De Bruycker lost to end the match, said she liked the team’s fight through its fatigue.
“It’s been a tough few weeks, but I’m very proud of the team for fighting through it,” she said.
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