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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's tennis beats ACC foes Miami, Florida State

	Florida native Gina Suarez-Malaguti felt at home this weekend in the women’s tennis team’s road swing at Miami and Florida State. Suarez-Malaguti won her singles match against FSU to help her team rally for the win against the No. 30 Seminoles.

Florida native Gina Suarez-Malaguti felt at home this weekend in the women’s tennis team’s road swing at Miami and Florida State. Suarez-Malaguti won her singles match against FSU to help her team rally for the win against the No. 30 Seminoles.

During its road trip to Florida this weekend, the North Carolina women’s tennis team showed it was able to withstand the heat — not only that of the sun, but of close matches and unfriendly crowds.

On Friday, the No. 1 Tar Heels fought off No. 10 Miami 5-2, which hadn’t lost a doubles point in nine straight matches.

UNC then rallied back in singles play against No. 30 Florida State for another 5-2 win on Sunday to overcome early doubles losses during the Seminoles’ Senior Day in Tallahassee.

“I think our entire schedule has been so strong that we’ve been in these situations many times,” coach Brian Kalbas said. “So nothing really fazes us. When we get down, we come right back. We don’t let little things bother us.”

The weekend was full of close matches and tense comebacks for the Tar Heels (21-2, 7-1), including a two-hour doubles match against Miami. Florida native Gina Suarez-Malaguti and junior Tessa Lyons were eventually able to clinch a momentum-building victory in a tie-break set.

“It was great for us to be able to get the doubles point (against Miami) after being down for so many games and while having this nasty crowd against us,” Suarez-Malaguti said. “Literally, there were probably around like 100 people just screaming at our faces during points. Tessa and I were able to stay calm and pull it together and win.”

Matches in Miami are always special for Suarez-Malaguti, whose hometown of Pembroke Pines, Fla. is only 40 minutes away. And she seems right at home on the tennis court and in the heat.

Last year, she claimed the match-winning point to help the Tar Heels win their first match in Miami in 11 years. This year, the match was a chance for her biggest fan, her mother, to see her in action for the first time during her senior year.

“My mom never really gets to watch me play as much,” Suarez-Malaguti said. “This year has been a such a successful year for me, and so for her to see me play was very encouraging for me.”

After UNC clinched the doubles point, Lyons lost her singles match. But sophomore Caroline Price stayed undefeated in singles on the season with her 19th straight win to give the Tar Heels a lead they never surrendered.

On Sunday, after clinching the doubles point with two wins, the Seminoles took Carolina into singles play with a determination similar to Miami’s.

“Florida State and Miami are very, very similar,” Suarez-Malaguti said. “They’re huge competitors in that they always have something against us, and they always, always want to beat us.”

Seniors Lauren McHale, Suarez-Malaguti and freshman Whitney Kay won three straight singles matches to give Carolina the lead. But the Seminoles refused to give up, and gave Price her first singles loss of the season in three sets.

“It was their Senior Day, and the girl I played was a senior, so she really came out fired up,” Price said. “She played really well. It wasn’t really my day to say the least, but I thought I fought hard. She just played better.”

Nonetheless, Kalbas and the players were pleased with the team’s ability to turn the pressure of the weekend into two hard-earned road victories.

“I’m so proud of my team,” Price said. “I think we definitely deserved to have won both of these. I just think that a lot of people don’t think that we should be No. 1. And I think this weekend we proved that we are the No. 1 team in the country.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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