Though the No.10 North Carolina women’s tennis defeated No. 9 Northwestern 6-1, the match was not a blowout by any means — it took the Tar Heels more than four hours to earn their hard-fought victory.
Ranked No. 15 in the country, doubles partners Caroline Price and Whitney Kay captured an 8-5 victory on court No. 2 to give the Tar Heels a slight advantage. In order to take the 1-0 initial lead, UNC needed a victory on court No. 1 or court No. 3 to secure the best-out-of-three doubles point.
Ashley Dai and Tessa Lyons eventually overcame a 1-4 deficit and won their match 8-6, clinching the doubles point for a 1-0 Tar Heel lead. Dai said the early point helped motivate her team for the long battle ahead, and gave them more confidence.
“Even though it’s three matches for one point, it can make all the difference in a close match. Today I think it really helped us,” Dai said. “Going into singles we were really fired up.”
Loeb capitalized on the team’s energy, cruising to a 6-2, 6-2 win for the first UNC single match victory of the day and her 12th win in a row as the No. 1 singles player in the nation.
Several minutes later, Kay followed with a 6-2, 6-1 win on court No. 4. The Tar Heels led 3-0, only needing one more match to seal the team victory. The remaining four matches all went into a third set in order to determine the victor.
More than one hour later, Dai clinched the victory for the Tar Heels; she defeated her opponent 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Dai said that it was the first time she was able to clinch both the doubles point and the match victory for her team, an achievement coach Brian Kalbas said he was very pleased to see her accomplish.
“I am so proud of Ashley and what she was able to do, especially when the moment was so big,” Kalbas said. “I know the score is deceiving, but it was a really close match, and we needed somebody to get us over the hump, and it was nice to see Ashley do that.”
Though the outcome for UNC was sealed, for freshman Hayley Carter it was far from over. Kalbas said that Carter is still recovering from several injuries and needed to make every point count in order to be victorious.