A primal roar erupted from the UNC (17-8, 6-3 ACC) locker room Thursday, less than five minutes after defeating No. 6 Duke (19-4, 6-3) 5-2 on Senior Day.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” said sophomore Jack Murray. “Not just for me personally, but to do it for our seniors, to have a hand in contributing to them having a great Senior Day.”
Sports teams often play better at home than away, and the Tar Heels have followed that formula this season. They end the regular season undefeated at home but having lost all but one match on the road.
“You gotta protect your home turf in your league because there’s so many good teams,” said Coach Sam Paul. “This is the best complete match we’ve played up and down the line, doubles and singles.”
After winning a close doubles point in front of a packed and raucous grandstand, UNC needed to win just three singles matches.
Freshman Robert Kelly smoked his opponent 6-0, 6-1 on Court 6. Sophomore Brayden Schnur held his ground on Court 1, while an injury forfeit gave Duke the win on Court 5. Junior Brett Clark dropped his match on Court 3, putting UNC ahead 3-2 with just Murray and sophomore Ronnie Schneider left. Murray took the tiebreak to win the first set, and let out a yell to pair with a Tiger Woods fist pump.
“I’m normally pretty composed, pretty even-keeled,” he said. “Today was just a fantastic environment. We had a lot of fans come out. I tried to put in a little extra something to make sure I could do everything I could to win this match.”
UNC had momentum from Murray’s tiebreak win and Schneider tying his match at a set apiece, but the weather intervened. Thunder forced the final two matches inside, prolonging UNC’s win by another 20 minutes at least. The loud fans and players only grew louder inside with the echo, building anticipation for a big win.