“It was important to the team to use last year as a learning step rather than a distraction.”
In an almost exact sequence of events as the spring 2014 matchup, the Tar Heels dominated in the doubles. With three decisive wins, 6-1, 6-2 and 6-3, UNC went up 1-0.
“We came out strong in the doubles,” Coach Brian Kalbas said. “We played well in the singles, too. Jamie (Loeb) got off the court quickly, which was nice to see, but we were playing a tough opponent.”
The Aggies came roaring back in the singles matches. Senior Caroline Price, ranked No. 22, lost to the unranked Rutuja Bhosale.
Suddenly it was tied 3-3 with one match left on the court.
During the 2013-14 season, Dai was defeated in the last match, sending the Tar Heels home with the 4-3 loss. This year, in the final match again, she used that loss as motivation to top Texas A&M’s Stefania Hristov 7-5.
“It was nice to see Ashley come through at the end,” Kalbas said. “It was fitting after losing a dramatic match last year.”
Sunday’s win increased North Carolina’s winning streak to five matches. Kalbas emphasized the fact that this powerful start to the season is important for the team’s confidence.
The win is timely — with this, the team is headed to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship this weekend, Feb. 6 through Feb. 9.
In the 2013-14 season, the Tar Heels lost to Duke in this event. But now, fresh off of a second-chance victory against Texas A&M, the team is looking to make a clean sweep this year.
In order to do that, UNC realizes it is important to maintain a healthy roster.
“I am focused on staying healthy because I’ve struggled with that, and it is such a quick turnaround,” Dai said of her focus for the next week and the rest of the season.
“Everyone needs time to recuperate,” Kalbas followed.