After the North Carolina women’s tennis team lost its two top players from the previous seasons, a lot of pressure was put on the shoulders of Hayley Carter.
Carter — a two-time All-American and the ninth-ranked singles player in the ITA Division I rankings — had the accolades, but the junior had yet to prove she could lead the Tar Heels on her own.
This weekend, she put all of her critics to rest.
Entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed, Carter claimed the ITA Carolinas Regional singles title in emphatic fashion, never losing a set en route to six victories. With the championship win, Carter earned an automatic bid to the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship in Flushing Meadows, New York.
“She played unbelievable, very focused, relentless, I had not seen her this focused in a long time ...” Coach Brian Kalbas said. “She was able to be more aggressive in her attacks."
Being more aggressive was Carter’s key to having a successful weekend. She held all of her opponents to less than seven games in the entire tournament until the championship, where she only allowed her opponent to score eight total games through two sets.
Carter has shown flashes of being a dominant player in the past two seasons and is stepping into her leadership role this year. But Kalbas believes Carter has been a voice in the locker room long before this season.
“She has always been an amazing leader and an incredible talent,” Kalbas said.
In 2014, Caroline Price earned more dual match singles victories than any player in the country, while Jamie Loeb was the NCAA Division I Singles National Champion.
But with her teammates now departed, the junior has bumped up to the No. 1 spot in the ladder. This will present Carter with more challenging opponents throughout the year, but she is more than confident she can fulfill the role.
“It’s some big shoes to fill," Carter said. "I am just trying to set a great example for all of the freshmen.”
With this tournament victory, Carter moves on to her next tournament in Flushing Meadows from Nov. 12-15. And with high hopes of continuing her solid play, Carter didn't want to leave anything up to chance.
“I knew how much this tournament meant to me," she said. "And I knew I wanted to qualify for New York on my own right.”
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