“When you win that many matches, it’s because you have good players and they played well,” said Kalbas of the milestone. “They make you look good. It’s a tribute to these guys (as well).”
The match against Clemson lived up to the anticipation stemming from the Tar Heels' defeat in 2014 and had fans on the edge of their seats for a whirlwind ending.
The two teams split their first two doubles matches, leaving it to sophomore Jamie Loeb and senior Caroline Price to close out the doubles point for the Tar Heels. UNC’s 13th-ranked doubles pair faced off against Clemson’s third-ranked doubles pair of Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies, who have been the No. 1 doubles team for parts of this season.
“The momentum was up and down,” Loeb said. “It was really close. We were up 7-4, and then they started playing better. Then in the tiebreaker, we were up match point, down match point — it was pretty stressful, but we stayed calm and pulled it out.”
The pairs traded off numerous tiebreak points until the Tar Heels broke Clemson’s serve while up 10-9 to give them the 8-7 (11-9) win and the lone doubles point that would prove to be the difference maker in the end.
The singles matches that followed were just as dramatic. Almost every Tar Heel playing had to overcome early deficits to give the team a chance to squeak out the victory.
UNC faltered early, as only one Tar Heel — junior Kate Vialle — won her first set during singles play. UNC lost three of its first four singles matches to give Clemson the 3-2 overall advantage at the same time as the Tigers had leads on the final two courts.
Ninth-ranked Loeb bounced back from a poor first set to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 on court No. 1, tying the team score at 3-3. Everyone's attention immediately turned to junior Whitney Kay on court No. 4 to see if she could finish the comeback.
Kay, the No. 72 singles collegiate player, went up early in the third set for a 5-2 game advantage, but she couldn’t seem to close out the match. After a tiresome final game with numerous match points, Kay finally finished off her opponent 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-3 to give North Carolina the big win.
Kay celebrated with her teammates on the court while fans cheered for the Tar Heels' hard-fought victory. Kay took personal satisfaction from this particular victory.
“I was one of the ones that lost last year (against Clemson),” Kay said. “I was serving for the match in the third set (last year), so it was disappointing for me when we ended up losing. I felt like I let the team down. It was great to be able to win that third set this time.”
Sunday’s match against Pittsburgh was much less thrilling. The Tar Heels imposed themselves on the Panthers from the beginning, even with sophomore Hayley Carter and Kay sitting out the match to rest.
Freshmen Marika Akkerman and Cassandra Vasquez stepped up in their place and got some unexpected game time. Both freshmen only lost one game in their singles matches and were the first two players to win their matches. UNC didn’t lose a single set in doubles or singles matches on the day, giving them the clean sweep of Pittsburgh with a 7-0 victory.
Although Kalbas was pleased with his personal record, his focus remained on his team’s gutsy performance against Clemson and dominant win over Pittsburgh.
“I told my team, ‘I’m really proud of you guys for respecting these opponents, taking it one match at a time and not looking ahead,’” Kalbas said. “(The ACC) is so strong. It’s the toughest conference in the nation. I think it shows the character and the respect they have for our program and their opponent.”