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The Daily Tar Heel

Cassandra Vazquez seals win for UNC women's tennis

UNC (24-0, 12-0 ACC) rarely needs Vazquez with a deep, talented and experienced singles lineup. But junior Ashley Dai’s gluteal muscles started hurting after helping the Tar Heels clinch the doubles point, so Coach Brian Kalbas called on Vazquez.

The result? Vazquez toughed out a tie-breaking singles victory, clinching the 24th win for the undefeated Tar Heels, who claimed at least a share of the ACC regular-season title.

“I was kind of thrown off a little bit,” Vazquez said. “Throughout the season, our coach has instilled upon us, especially the freshmen who haven’t really gotten to play every match, to just be ready because you never know when your time’s going to come.”

If the start rattled Vazquez, it didn’t show.

On Court 6, Vazquez won the first set before anyone else and then rallied in the tiebreaker to seal the win. The Tar Heels won 4-3 thanks to Vazquez, who also clinched the win over Michigan earlier this season.

UNC went up 1-0 after doubles play, but the Cavaliers (15-5, 8-3 ACC) responded with a win over senior Caroline Price on Court 3. Sophomore Jamie Loeb, ranked sixth in the country, easily defeated second-ranked Julia Elbaba 6-3, 6-1. UNC got its third point from Whitney Kay on Court 4 after a long three-set match.

“The girl I played, I’ve played her before,” Kay said. “I know she’s kind of streaky, and she can get on a roll.”

Kay edged out her opponent in the first set and lost the second, but she rebounded for the 6-0 sweep in the third.

“Whitney was cruising in the third, and that gave our team a lot of confidence to know that when she was off the court, we were one point away,” Kalbas said. “There’s a lot of momentum swings down there.”

UNC’s best hope for the fourth point lay in Vazquez with Hayley Carter and Kate Vialle heading into third sets on Courts 2 and 5, respectively. Vazquez took a 6-5 lead in the second set, but Virginia’s Marie Faure forced the seven-point tiebreak.

Vazquez fell behind 4-2, and it appeared the match might head to a final set. But the crowd cheered a little harder, Vazquez zoned in a little more and Faure hit just long a couple of times. Though Vazquez raced out to win the first set before anyone else, she won the last match for UNC, which proved essential with Vialle and Carter eventually losing.

“I was feeling a little fatigued,” Vazquez said. “It was getting really tough out there. I was trying to embrace all the support I was getting from the fans, and I just took it one at a time.”

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