The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, April 21, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Senoirs leave a mark on UNC women's tennis

Three years ago, Gina Suarez-Malaguti and Zoe De Bruycker were fresh-faced and talented youngsters on the North Carolina women’s tennis team. That team had the best season of any UNC team up to that point, thanks to a trip to the final four and a doubles national championship from Jenna Long and current-assistant coach Sara Anundsen.

Fast-forward to 2013, and Suarez-Malaguti, De Bruycker and Princeton-transfer Lauren McHale are leaving UNC’s program after a stellar career and an impressive 2013 season, which can only be rivaled by 2010.

“We really started from the bottom,” Suarez-Malaguti said. “We were children in the group, and we experienced how it is to be one of the greatest. For us to lead our team to that moment was a big challenge to us.”

The senior class leaves UNC with records and notes that will be hard to surpass in future years. They boast a 40-4 record in the ACC, one final four, two elite eights, a round of 16 and three ACC championships. Additionally, all three have been All-Americans, and they led the team to its first national championship at the ITA National Indoors Championships in February.

“It’s the most successful four years in the history of our program,” coach Brian Kalbas said. “They set the bar for future programs here at Carolina. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve accomplished and what they’ve meant to our program.”

During the years the seniors have been at UNC, they have built a strong bond that will extend far past the college years.

“The seniors and I have an amazing relationship,” Suarez-Malaguti said. “We live together — we all live on the same floor of a house, we watch TV together, we go eat together, we do everything together. I’m really going to miss them. I couldn’t have asked for a better senior (group). We’re like sisters.”

But that bond isn’t unique to the seniors — the whole team shares it. And it’s a big reason why the team experienced success this year.

“They genuinely care about each other,” Kalbas said. “They were really devastated, not just about losing but not being able to hang around each other. Our banquet was a cry-fest. They showed a lot of emotion and passion for each other. It shows the family-ness that we’ve cultivated the last few years.”

De Bruycker said she would look back on both the successes and people she met with fond memories.

“It is like a family,” De Bruycker said. “Even if we’re down, you get right back up. It helped us because we cared about each other so much, so we used that as an edge in the way that we fight for other and what we want to accomplish for each other.”

Suarez-Malaguti told a story from her final team match, the 4-3 loss to UCLA, that illustrates the tight bond on the team.

“Right after we lost, I sat on my bench, and (Caroline) came up to me and said, ‘I’m sorry, I wanted to win it for you,’” Suarez-Malaguti said. “I could tell how much they wanted to get it done for the seniors.”

When Suarez-Malaguti finally leaves Chapel Hill and moves onto the next chapter in her life, she said she will always carry the memories she’s made.

“The moment of walking onto the courts, hearing your name and huddling up with my team, playing points and having (my teammates) next to me and looking at them fighting for me — that’s something I’m going to hold on to for the rest of my life,” Suarez-Malaguti said.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.