One day. Two opponents. Two victories.
The North Carolina men’s tennis team kicked off its 2014 spring season on Friday by dominating a double-header with matches against East Carolina and Wofford.In the first match against the Pirates, the Tar Heels grabbed the lead early and never looked back.
The match was played under a new experimental format from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association — which essentially shortens matches using no-ad scoring and a tiebreaker at 5-all in each set. North Carolina coach Sam Paul played primarily underclassmen in the season-opening match.
The No. 1 doubles team facing the Pirates comprises sophomore Brett Clark and new-arrival freshman Brayden Schnur, while Ronnie Schneider and Jack Murray, both freshmen, took over at No. 2 doubles. The Clark-Schnur and Schneider-Murray combos both produced 6-2 victories.
Clark said he enjoyed playing with Schnur.
“I’m always a big fan of doubles,” he said. “In college, it’s more of a team sport.”
The singles matches were only more victories for the Tar Heels.
Schnur played No. 1 singles, pulling out a 6-3, 6-0 victory against 23rd-ranked Joran Vliegen.
From there, North Carolina won every singles match, with Murray putting the finishing touches on a perfect 7-0 match, by beating ECU’s Fredric Lehfeldt in a 6-4, 5-6 (4-7), 1-0 (11-9) tiebreak set that had everyone at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center in Chapel Hill watching.
The match against Wofford was almost an exact replica of the victory against the Pirates.
With the same doubles lineup as the ECU match, the Tar Heels shut down the Terriers early, with Schnur-Clark and Schneider-Murray each again bringing in 6-2 wins.
Apart from Clark and Schneider switching positions in the single’s lineup, there was nothing new for the Tar Heels. All six singles players rolled to victories, but this time with Clark bringing up the rear. His No. 2 singles match was a 6-2, 5-6, 1-0 (11-9) win against Wofford’s Haris Poric.
Schneider, who had two doubles and two singles victories of his own, said he thought both wins were a great way to kick off the season.
“I think it was really good, I think it was just what the doctor ordered to start the season,” he said.
“Coming in, there is a lot of anxiety. First match, first collegiate match ever. And to come in and get two solid victories, four total singles and doubles, and then two solid victories as a team was I think what we needed as a team and for me as well.”
But that wasn’t the end. Just three days later, on Monday, the Tar Heels traveled to Richmond, Va., where they defeated Virginia Commonwealth 5-2 and blanked Howard 7-0. Against VCU, Schneider paired up with Murray once more and won the No. 3 doubles competition. UNC’s second seeded doubles team — Oystein Steiro and Nelson Vick — won as well before three singles victories sealed the win. All of the matches against Howard went to the Tar Heels.
Coach Sam Paul said although he is excited to have underclassmen leading the way, there are still things for the team to be working on.
“It’s obviously very good. They come in and make an immediate impact,” he said. “(The veterans) are happy to have a really strong team. As we go through the season, we are going to develop. It’s not an instant fix. We did some things tonight, and we can definitely do better.”
“We are shooting for ACC goals and NCAA goals and to develop and be the best team that we can,” Paul said.
“We are excited about it.”
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