The No. 11 North Carolina women’s tennis team proved that they would not lose without a fight after five hours of play in the Ambler Tennis Stadium in Durham.
The No. 1 Duke team handed the Tar Heels (11-3, 3-1 ACC) their third loss of the season, and their second loss to the Blue Devils. Duke defeated UNC 4-2 in the semifinals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor Championship in February, and won 5-2 on Sunday.
The Blue Devils won the doubles point and took an early lead, which Carolina would not be able to recover from. Freshman Hayley Carter responded quickly on Court 2, defeating her opponent 6-0, 6-1 to tie the match 1-1. Duke eventually regained the lead defeating Tessa Lyons and Whitney Kay, for the 3-1 advantage.
The drama that unfolded on court three represented the Tar Heel’s fight to stay in the match. Junior Caroline Price lay down in pain from a back spasm in the middle of her match and sought medical attention. She said the only thing keeping her on the court was determination to help her teammates out.
“I was just trying to stay out there as long as I could,” Price said, “hoping that that would help every one else keep fighting.”
Though she limped in pain between points and struggled to hit overhead balls, Price continued her competition. Price’s 5-3 lead began to slip away, and she ultimately lost her match 5-7, 4-6 which clinched the victory for the Blue Devils.
Coach Brian Kalbas said that Price’s determination to finish her match and fight through the pain was representative of the strength North Carolina demonstrated against their rivals.
“We didn’t go away, we fought back and that’s what I was pleased about,” Kalbas said. “We showed some fight and we showed some resilience.”
Though Kalbas was proud of his team’s improved efforts since the last time they played Duke, he said that they still have work to do.
“It was definitely better than the first time we played them, when we played very tentative and not to lose.” Kalbas said. “Here, we came out really determined but we showed that we still have some work to do.”
Shortly after Duke sealed the victory, Kate Vialle lost her match 6-4, 2-6, 2-6, and all eyes moved to Court 1 where the top-two women in the country fought for a personal victory.
Loeb is currently the No. 1 ranked singles player in the country, despite losing to No. 2 Beatrice Capra in the indoor tournament. When the two faced again yesterday, Loeb said that she was determined to win. Like the rest of the Carolina team, Loeb was fighting from behind after losing her first set 3-6.
Going into her second set, Loeb said she adopted a new mentality that would eventually lead her to victory
“I’m not losing this match, this is my match and I’m going to do anything and everything to win it,” Loeb said. “That mentality helped me push through and stay intense.”
Loeb eventually won her match 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 securing her title as the top-ranked singles player in the nation.
Though the Tar Heels were not victorious as a unit, Price said that the team learned several things from their tough day of competition and is keeping their focus on improving for the end of the season play.
“We fought hard and we are pleased about that. We definitely played better this match than we did at indoors so we’re taking from that that we are improving and that we are getting better,” Price said. “Hopefully we will have a shot at them again in the ACC and NCAA tournament and ultimately that’s when it counts the most, I’d rather beat them then than now.”
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