It was up to Caroline Price to seal the win for the North Carolina women’s tennis team.
After two hours of play, Price was minutes away from earning the team’s victory — the only thing standing in her way was the pain in her back.
Price walked off the court in the middle of her match and lay on the ground waiting for the assistance of her trainer. Moments later, she was up and ready to defeat her opponent. Price won 6-3, 6-4, which clinched the victory for the No. 3 ranked team.
The Tar Heels defeated No. 62 Denver 4-0 on Saturday and No. 31 Memphis 4-1 on Sunday in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association kick-off weekend. The two victories qualify UNC for the ITA Indoor National Championship Feb. 7-10 in Charlottesville, Va.
Though Price was in pain after the longest match of the season, she said she was more enthusiastic for her team’s opportunity to defend its title as ITA Indoor National Champions.
“I’m just excited. I think we have an ‘x’ on our back, but we have a new team. We’re deep, and we’re strong,” Price said. “I think we are ready. We’ve been working really hard, and we want to show the girls again why we won it last year.”
Coach Brian Kalbas said he thinks his team is prepared for the tournament, as long as his players are healthy. He said Price’s performance on Sunday was an indication that she is willing to fight for a victory even with pain.
“She wanted to show me that she could do it,” Kalbas said.
“So her playing four matches is a really great thing and maybe proved me wrong.”
The defending champions will travel to Charlottesville to compete in the tournament with one of the best freshman classes in the country. Freshmen Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter are ranked No. 2 and No. 5 in the country in singles play.
The two grew up playing tennis against each other and are now working together in Carolina blue.
Loeb and Carter won both of their doubles matches 6-0 and won both of their singles matches as well. Carter said she is excited for future opportunities to play together.
“It’s crazy going from competing all the time in juniors to being best friends and teammates in college,” Carter said. “It’s been a great transition, and we’re looking to do big things at Carolina.”
Those two could look to Price for inspiration. She was wearing her indoor championship ring as a reminder of what her team has to work for.
“I think because our team is deeper and stronger, she may not think that we need her as much as we’ve tried to impress upon her that we do,” Kalbas said.
“Hopefully this weekend makes her realize that we do need her.”
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