The No. 2 Tar Heels (20-0, 8-0 ACC) wanted Friday’s match more than any other so far this year, and Kalbas said he would prefer his 500th win come in a dramatic, competitive battle.
“Every match we play with Clemson is a dog fight,” he said.
The fight started early in the doubles point, where it all came down to Loeb and senior Caroline Price going up against the third-best doubles team in the country — Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies.
“In the beginning, we were down on each court, and I wanted to stay out there as long as possible and help everyone in any way I could,” Loeb said.
The match would go to a tiebreaker and would remain close throughout, with the tandems constantly trading leads.
Price and Loeb won 8-7 (11-9) to give UNC an early edge, but when singles started, the Tar Heels found themselves down on all but one court.
UNC dropped the first three points of the singles competition, and Loeb and junior Whitney Kay were the only Tar Heels left with a chance to seal the 500th win for their coach.
Loeb won her match 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 after battling back from a first-set loss, making Kay’s match the deciding match on whether Kalbas would get his 500th victory.
Kay dropped her first set despite fighting back to send it to a tiebreaker, but she won the second set to send the match to a third, deciding set.
“I knew going into the match that she was a really good player,” Kay said. “First set, I got down and came back and that gave me a little more confidence going into the second set. After I won the second set, I knew I could outlast her if I needed to.”
After a long final-set deuce, Rompies forced one more game in which Kay got triple match point and won it for the Tar Heels — and for Kalbas.
“I didn’t know that it was the deciding match until they ran at me, and even then, I was kind of not sure ‘cause I can’t see the scoreboard,” Kay said.