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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina looks for revenge in Sweet 16 matchup

This week, rematch is the name of the game for the North Carolina men's tennis team. 

The Tar Heels will take on Illinois, which beat UNC 4-3 earlier this season, in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in Waco, Texas. 

"They've had a great year. They have a great team ... and our guys are going to be looking forward to that challenge," said Coach Sam Paul. "They know us well; we know them." 

In its previous match with the Illini, N.C., was without one of its top players in sophomore Ronnie Schneider. Without Schneider, the Tar Heels lost a pivotal match on court two, where Schneider normally plays. 

Eventually, the match came down to a clash between UNC's Brayden Schnur and Illinois' Farris Gosea. Gosea would rally to beat Schnur after dropping the first set, giving the Illini the 4-3 victory. 

“We said after that match we wanted to play them again,” sophomore Jack Murray said. “But this time, beat them." 

Paul said the Fighting Illini are a great team who has played a great season, but he said the Tar Heels are no exception.

"I think we're better than last year's team,” Paul said. “We've played a really difficult schedule, but individually the players have grown a lot, they have a lot more experience.”

Aside from physical talent, Schneider said Illinois’ mental game is a huge factor in their competition as well.

“They bring a lot of good energy and were very talkative on the court,” Schneider said. “They also play all spots on the court very well, so we’re really just going to have to give it all that we’ve got.”

And Paul said his team has been using their losses as opportunities to improve their skills and finish strong.

"They've worked really hard,” Paul said. “We've had some moments where we've lost some matches where we were in some really good spots, and we've learned from that."

Being four matches away from holding a National title, Murray says he has confidence the team could walk away victorious. 

“We have a team that’s very capable of winning a National Championship, but it’s going to be tough to do it,” Murray said. “There are 15 other very good teams here, and we’re just going to have to take it one at a time.”

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