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The Daily Tar Heel

UCLA ends title quest for UNC women's tennis

A 4-1 defeat at the hands of No. 7 UCLA ended one of the best seasons in the UNC women's tennis team's history

Earlier this year, the North Carolina women’s tennis team defeated UCLA to win the program’s first national championship. But on Sunday, the No. 7 Bruins (20-5) got revenge and defeated No. 2 UNC (28-4) to end the Tar Heels’ run in the NCAA Tournament at the Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana, Ill.

“The first time we played them, they probably underestimated us,” senior Zoe De Bruycker said. “They assumed they were going to win the match pretty easily, so I think they learned from last time and had extra motivation to beat us.”

UNC got off to a good start in the match with a win in doubles. No. 58 Caroline Price/Whitney Kay and Gina Suarez-Malaguti/Tessa Lyons notched victories for the Tar Heels to put the team up 1-0 heading into singles.

In singles play, UNC held early leads on several courts, but UCLA stormed back to take single set leads against all UNC players except senior Lauren McHale. UCLA went on to win singles matches over Suarez-Malaguti, De Bruycker, Kay and McHale.

Unlike last week’s match against Tennessee, where UNC lost the doubles point but dominated in singles, UNC won the doubles point but lost in singles.

“Today simply wasn’t our day,” coach Brian Kalbas said. “We had an opportunity to close some of the matches, and they got momentum. They fought really hard and played with purpose — I give them a lot of credit.

“They took it from us,” he said. “We didn’t play as well as we could, but they played to win. I think we underestimated the power of momentum. Momentum really hurt us losing some close first sets, and that put us in a big, big hole. But I’m really proud of my team for fighting back and extending the match.”

De Bruycker said the team was sad to see the season end, but the players proud of it overall.

“There were people apologizing, but they didn’t have any reasons to apologize because they fought so hard,” De Bruycker said. “That was kind of the message the coaches were sending — that they were proud of the way we fought and the season we had. It has been a special season, and it’s sad that it’s over now.”

This loss brings to a close one of the best seasons in UNC program history. The team won its first-ever national championship, won the ACC regular-season title, held a No. 1 ranking throughout most of the year and went into the NCAA Tournament tied for its highest seed ever — 2.

While the season is over for the team, several of the individuals will get another chance to keep playing. Suarez-Malaguti, De Bruycker, Kay and Price will compete in the singles NCAA tournament.

Kalbas said this loss would not diminish or lessen other accomplishments at all.

“Absolutely not — no way,” Kalbas said. “Even in losing, we lost with dignity, with fight. If we were down and out and didn’t fight back, I would’ve been very disappointed, but the character of the team shined through.”

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