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The Daily Tar Heel

Men's tennis rebounds from Illinois loss with cruise over N.C. Central

The Tar Heels blanked the Eagles 6-0

North Carolina men’s tennis sophomore Jack Murray walked off court two at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center to sparse applause, one unceremonious singles win richer.

The result didn’t matter. No. 7 UNC (8-1) had already clinched the match against North Carolina Central (0-2) two matches before, but Murray played on, just one game away from winning his match. He continued pounding away at his opponent with a relentless ground game, painting corner after corner, until the team scores read 6-0 in UNC’s favor.

“You don’t really get a chance to play another school every single day,” Murray said. “You only have a certain amount of dual matches, so you try to make the most out of every single match that you play. You can’t replicate competition in practice.”

After a tight loss at No. 5 Illinois Saturday — UNC’s first of the season — Coach Sam Paul said it was good for his team to get the loss out of its system. The ITA National Team Indoor Championships also start next weekend in Chicago.

Earlier Wednesday, the Tar Heels defeated Campbell 4-1 in the first prong of the doubleheader. UNC came out sharp, dropping just one game in three doubles matches against Campbell. Then against N.C. Central, the Eagles looked overmatched and unable to keep up with the quicker, more accurate Tar Heels.

“These matches are just to get ready for National Indoors coming up in about a week,” said junior Brett Clark, who played No. 1 singles in both matches. “It was definitely a good confidence builder.”

The twinbill served as a tuneup for next week’s tournament, but it also gave Paul a chance to assess the depth of his team. No. 27 Ronnie Schneider sat out Wednesday’s matches plus the Illinois game, and Esben Hess-Olesen withdrew from his singles match against Campbell due to injury. With No. 2 Brayden Schnur only playing doubles in the N.C. Central match, other players had to step up, specifically Murray, freshman Robert Kelly and Clark.

All three were up to the challenge.

Murray and Kelly won both matches Wednesday. Kelly even shutout his N.C. Central opponent 6-0, 6-0. Clark won against Campbell and led 6-4, 3-2 against N.C. Central before the coaches called off the match.

“We played with a little more intensity in singles, a little more purpose, a little bit more focus,” Paul said. “Brett Clark had a very good day, singles and doubles in both matches. I was pleased with his level of concentration and level of work the whole day.”

Paul also saw strong play in the bottom half of his singles lineup: Oystein Steiro, Stuart DePaolo and Andrew Gores. All three defeated N.C. Central — Steiro 6-1, 6-1; DePaolo 6-2, 6-2; and Gores 6-0, 6-1.

But, Paul said his team still had room to improve, specifically in poor shot selection during singles play.

The Tar Heels will also benefit greatly if the trio of Schnur, Schneider and Hess-Olesen return for the national tournament.

“We’ll get some guys rested and healthy before then,” Clark said. “I know we can compete with anyone. We’re not scared of anyone.”

sports@dailytarheel.com

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