Forgetting the past is hard. The No. 3 North Carolina women’s tennis knows this all too well.
Two years ago the Tar Heels were celebrating their Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor National Championship. Coach Brian Kalbas said the pressure from that win was on his players' minds in 2014, when they lost the ITAs to Duke.
“This year we won’t have the kind of pressure, that struggle going into it,” he said. “So hopefully we can just relax and play up to our potential.”
But Kalbas knows that all eyes are still on UNC this year for the upcoming ITA Indoor National Championship in Charlottesville, Va. Feb. 7 to 10.
“I think because of where we are ranked and what we did last year, I think teams are gunning for us and have an opportunity," he said.
Sophomore Jamie Loeb wasn’t at UNC for the 2013 ITA win, but she wants the championship this year after falling to the Blue Devils in 2014.
“There’s always some nerves, it’s just you have to use it the right way; sometimes it can hurt you, sometimes it can help you,” she said. “But I’ve been playing for a while, so I’m pretty experienced with that and I think I can use those nerves in a positive way. We’ve all been in those situations before so I think all of us know what we need to do to win it.”
The Tar Heels hosted the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, beating Minnesota and Louisiana State on Saturday and Sunday. But Loeb knows that her team felt the stress at the beginning of the weekend.
“I think (Saturday) we were a little tentative in the beginning, all of us in doubles, and even the start of singles," she said. "But I think (Sunday) we came out much stronger and knew what we had to do."
Senior Caroline Price and Loeb lost their doubles match to Minnesota on Saturday, but were much more confident coming into LSU the next day. If they were stressed, it wasn't visible. The duo won their match 6-1 over the Tigers. Price went on to cruise past her singles opponent, Ella Taylor, 6-2 and 6-0.
“This was our first real competition, so I think we were all just trying to work our nerves out and I think (Sunday) we played like ourselves, like how we normally played last year,” Price said.
Pressure. That’s what it comes down to. But the season is still young. Price said the Tar Heels haven’t had much experience handling high intensity situations this year.
“I think in practice, Coach is going to try to put us in more situations where we feel pressure early on so that when we go to indoors and we are in pressure then we’ll be able to handle it,” she said.
Price isn’t looking too far ahead, though.
“We’re trying to focus, because all the teams that go (to ITAs) are the top in the country,” she said. “We’re looking at it one match at a time instead of the big picture, cause it can get overwhelming.”
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