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UNC women's tennis draws on out-of-state talent

Regardless of hometown or nationality, the North Carolina women’s tennis team has a strong sense of pride in its school, coach Brian Kalbas said after his team’s sweep of Winthrop and East Carolina this weekend.

In his 10 years of coaching at UNC, not one player has transferred out of the program.

“I think that’s a tribute and a credit to our program that players like the school,” Kalbas said. “They like the tennis program; they’re having a good time and getting better.”

The team is currently one of two UNC varsity programs without any North Carolina residents. The nine players represent six different states and two different countries.

Despite the wide range of hometowns represented, Kalbas said school and state pride has not been a concern.

“The athletic tradition here is so strong that when players come to North Carolina from the states, they know that they need to uphold that tradition,” Kalbas said. “There’s a pride factor.”

The furthest traveled player is junior Laura Slater from Frimley, England.

Slater was recruited after Kalbas saw her play at a tournament in Philadelphia.

Slater said with the help of some of her supporters, she has become an integral part of the team.

One of those supporters is Kitty Harrison, former UNC women’s tennis coach and member of the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame. Harrison still lives in the area and said she tries to attend all of the matches that she can.

“I felt much more settled my sophomore year and have formed some really amazing friendships,” Slater said.

Tessa Lyons, the only other junior on the team, agreed she and her teammates have created strong bonds with Slater.

“She’s such a great teammate; she means the world to all of us, and she’s such a hard worker, and she just gives 100 percent in whatever she’s doing, and we all love that,” Lyons said.

In UNC’s match against ECU, Slater won both her doubles and singles matches, despite a previous weekend of international travel.

Slater said she took advantage of a free weekend to go home and visit her family.

“We knew we had, like, one weekend off in the whole season, and it happened to be my grandma’s 80th birthday,” Slater said.

She said she was excited to see her family but was nervous about the effects of jet lag.

“Monday and Tuesday in practice I was a little bit nauseous,” Slater said. “But definitely toward the end of the week I’ve been absolutely fine and caught up on sleep and played great today.”

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