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UNC women's tennis gets big win against No. 11 Northwestern

The North Carolina women’s tennis team hasn’t had much luck against Northwestern during the past two years, falling short in their last two meetings.

But on Sunday, No. 1 UNC (16-1) survived a late run by the No. 11 Wildcats, reversing its fortune with a 4-3 win in Evanston, Ill.

“Northwestern always brings out the best in us,” coach Brian Kalbas said. “They compete hard, they’re very well-coached, and they play with a good game plan.”

“So you have to beat them, because they don’t beat themselves.”

Northwestern, the highest-ranked opponent UNC has faced since” losing to No. 2 Florida”:http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2013/02/no-1-unc-womens-tennis-falls-to-no-2-florida in February, played the Tar Heels tightly throughout the entire afternoon.

In doubles matches, junior Tessa Lyons and senior Lauren McHale lost 4-8 before senior Zoe De Bruycker and freshman Ashley Dai claimed a decisive 8-1 victory against their opponents.

Sophomore Caroline Price and freshman Whitney Kay won a closely contested match 9-8 in a tie-breaking game, giving the Tar Heels the doubles point and an early lead.

“The girls we played were probably one of the best doubles teams in the country,” Price said. “So we knew going in that they were going to be a really tough team. And the crowd was very rowdy and against us. That was really tough.”

De Bruycker and Price gave the Tar Heels two more quick points in singles matches, winning 6-1, 6-2 and 6-3, 6-3, respectively.

Then the Wildcats rallied and claimed two singles victories against Dai and McHale, while the final two matches each went to a third set.

Senior Gina Suarez-Malaguti, ranked No. 4 nationally in singles, ended the rally with a win in her third set, giving UNC the final point it needed to defeat Northwestern.

“I’m really proud of our team,” Price said. “Northwestern was tough. We knew we had to win it. They weren’t going to give it to us. So I’m really proud of the team and how we competed. We really took this one from them.”

Price remains undefeated in dual match singles play this spring season.

McHale said the team had this game marked on its calendar, and it came in determined to win.

“I think definitely just staying positive and staying motivated really helped us,” McHale said. “We learned a lot from this match today. We’re improving a little bit every match so that when we get to the NCAAs, we’ll be at our best.”

Kalbas and Price both said that in order to keep winning, the Tar Heels will need to maintain their focus.

“I mean, we are No. 1 in the country, so we just have to not really look at it that way,” Price said. “We have to keep playing like we have something to prove.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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