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.
“Hayley had to really play well, those points were extremely long and excruciating, and Hayley had to keep the girl off balance,” Kalbas said. “If she made any mistakes or hit a weak ball, the girl was going to hurt her.”
After hours of competition, Carter finally defeated her opponent 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. She said it took her several minutes to recover from the physical exertion her match required.
“I went into a nice little full-body cramp after; as soon as I got off the court I was down on the ground,” Carter said with a smile. “They were stretching me out for 15 minutes. I couldn’t even stand up. So yeah, I’m struggling a little bit, but it’s completely worth it.”
Kalbas noted that each of his players played with lots of fight and demonstrated resilience in order to be successful as a team and extend their record to 17-3.
“When you play Northwestern, if you don’t bring that kind of effort, they are going to beat you. I don’t care where it is, they are going to beat you because they are extremely well coached, well prepared, and their players give everything that they have,” Kalbas said. “I knew that our team had to do the same thing, and we laid it all out there today”
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