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The Daily Tar Heel

Women's tennis loses record, assistant coach

The North Carolina women’s tennis team lost much more than its undefeated record Tuesday against Texas A&M.

The Tar Heels also lost Gina Suarez-Malaguti, the volunteer assistant coach and former UNC ACC 2013 player of the year and Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American.

She will begin her career as an assistant coach at the University of Maryland starting next week. The 4-3 UNC loss was the last event she will attend in Carolina blue.

In the past year, Suarez-Malaguti has transformed her position in the tennis world. She played alongside some of the current UNC players last year and coached them throughout the fall season. Though her position was altered, her former teammates did not call her coach — they called her “Pichi,” like they always have.

Pichi is short for “little princess” in Italian, a nickname given by her mother.

“I have never called her Gina once in my life,” said senior Tessa Lyons, a good friend of Suarez-Malaguti.

“It’s really funny when people call her Gina and I have to process that they are talking about Pichi.”

For most of the UNC team, Pichi’s departure will be a more difficult change than her transition from player to coach was for her former teammates. Junior Caroline Price said that the fall season with Pichi as a coach took a little bit of time to get used to.

“I really enjoyed her as a coach. It took a while to adjust to it at first, but I liked it,” Price said. “I’m really going to miss her. It’s going to be weird not having her around because she has been (here) constantly since I’ve gotten here. I haven’t really been here without her.“

Though the Tar Heels will miss a part of their team, coach Brian Kalbas said that he is happy for Suarez-Malaguti and the opportunities ahead of her.

“She got a great opportunity at Maryland, it’s a great school and a great program,” Kalbas said. “The coach is doing a good job, so we are excited for Pichi to get that opportunity.”

The team will travel to Charlottesville, Va., this weekend to defend their title as ITA National Indoor Champions. Pichi played an integral part of winning that title. Lyons said that she thinks Pichi will continue to play a role in her senior year, whatever the circumstances are.

“I know she will be following us and be really excited to see where we end up and how finish the season,” said Lyons, who was emotional discussing Suarez-Malaguti’s departure. “We will miss her, but I’m super happy for her.”

The next time the two will see each other will be April 13, when UNC faces off against Maryland in Chapel Hill, an event Lyons said she is looking forward to.

“I am so excited to see her in the future,” Lyons said. “It’s only fitting that my senior day is when we play Maryland. Even though she will be coaching against me, she’ll be there.”

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