“I thought it was a really gutsy effort against UCLA,” said the Indiana native, who is ranked 19th nationally. “After dropping the doubles point and being down at a lot of positions, we showed a lot of heart coming back and winning.”
But in the subsequent rounds, inconsistency plagued the Tar Heels (9-3), who dropped both matches after losing only once before the tournament.
UNC fell 4-1 to No. 2 Oklahoma — who went on to win the tournament — after failing to claim a singles victory. And after dropping the doubles point for the second time in one weekend, the Tar Heels gave No. 3 Virginia an easy 4-0 win.
“We had played a few big matches going into this tournament, but nothing like the caliber we were going to see,” said sophomore Brayden Schnur. “This is the top 16 teams in the nation. Every match is gonna be tough.
“It came down to just having everyone click at the same time.”
Coach Sam Paul sees the stiff opposition as good experience for the Tar Heels, especially with the season barely underway.
“I think it’s great for our team to see this type of competition early,” Paul said. “It’s tremendous for us, it’s great for us and we’re just looking forward to these challenges.”
And Schneider — who Paul sees as an emotional leader of the team — knows the positives that can come from the tournament.
“Last year we didn’t even make the indoor final 16,” the sophomore said. “For us to make it was a great learning experience. We see that there’s no reason we shouldn’t be playing for that championship.”
And despite the seemingly lopsided results, the players know how close North Carolina came to doing just that.
“It’s just a few points here and there and it turned one or two matches around, that could get us in the finals today,” said Schnur, the sixth-ranked player in the country. “If we can get people coming together, we can play with the best teams in the country.”
Though the finally tally wasn’t what the Tar Heels had hoped, Schneider believes a loss might have been a blessing in disguise.
“When you win, you don’t take away and learn as much,” he said. “I think from those losses we’ve learned quite a bit — what we need to do better as a team, what we need to do better as an individual.
“We’re gonna grow as a team because of our learning experiences in Chicago.”