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The Daily Tar Heel

Women's tennis tunes up in Las Vegas

The North Carolina women’s tennis team might be young this year, but after competing with the best in the nation, the team seems prepared to start the upcoming spring season off strong.

The No. 3 Tar Heels spent the holiday weekend in Las Vegas in the company of five of the other top 10 teams in the country at the Freeman Memorial Women’s Tennis Championship — a competition that coach Brian Kalbas said might have been “the toughest individual tournament (the team) has played all year, and maybe ever”.

“Overall, we didn’t have everyone there, but the girls who played got some good matches in and got ready for our season,” he said. “Everybody came away with some positives, so we’re excited now to start our season with dual matches.”

None of the Tar Heels advanced past the quarterfinals in singles or doubles play , but Kalbas highlighted several performances that he was pleased with from the five girls that went to the tournament.

Freshman Hayley Carter, ranked No. 5 in the country in singles, won both of her matches Friday in straight sets before getting injured and sitting out the rest of the tournament with concussion-like symptoms .

“I’ve been working really hard this offseason to get ready for the spring season, and I think it showed in my first two matches,” Carter said. “So it’s a little unlucky that I had to pull out, but I’m hoping to get healthy for the season.”

Sophomore Ashley Dai and senior Tessa Lyons both gave performances that also received praise from Kalbas.

“I didn’t think I played necessarily the best,” Lyons said about her weekend. “But I was just trying to use the whole weekend as a starting point for the season and getting back into match play.”

She lost her singles match in round one against a Stanford player who would go on to win the tournament’s singles final, but she showed strength and resiliency in her match on Sunday.

“Tessa was down 3-0 in a set against a Duke girl on Sunday and came back and won a third set tiebreaker,” Kalbas said.

“It was just vintage Tessa, and it was amazing to see her fight through and compete at the end of the match. She played some really gutsy tennis when the whole match was on the line.”

Dai won her first singles match in two sets against USC senior Brynn Boren, an ITA All-American transfer from Tennessee.

UNC enters the spring season after losing three seniors from last year’s team, which won the program’s first national championship.

Given the team’s youth — only three of its eight members are upperclassmen — Kalbas is looking to the team’s two senior captains to continue to lead the women to success.

“(Lyons and Laura Slater) are both doing a great job of leading on and off the court,” he said. “We do have a smaller team and a younger team but those two are doing a great job so far.”

Lyons has embraced the role and said that this team makes being a leader easy.

“It hasn’t been that hard because my teammates are all so respectful of one another and willing to do whatever it takes for one another,” she said. “We all play a very big role on this team.

“We’re definitely a young team. But it’s exciting though to see the girls in our sophomore class stepping up. And obviously our freshmen are easily the best in the country.”

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