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Brayden Schnur returns, secures win for UNC men's tennis over Vanderbilt

Junior Brayden Schnur returns a ball in No. 7 UNC Men's Tennis team's victory over No.5 Oklahoma 4-3 Sunday afternoon.
Junior Brayden Schnur returns a ball in No. 7 UNC Men's Tennis team's victory over No.5 Oklahoma 4-3 Sunday afternoon.

Brayden Schnur might be the most talented player on the North Carolina men’s tennis team when he plays — but this season, playing has been the hardest part.

The junior didn’t compete with the team in the fall with an injury and missed UNC's past three matches with a cold. But Schnur stepped back onto the court on Friday afternoon and won both of his matches, helping the No. 1 Tar Heels to a 7-0 victory over Vanderbilt.

Paired with fellow junior Jack Murray in doubles, Schnur easily defeated Vanderbilt’s duo of sophomore Daniel Valent and junior Pen Binet, showing no signs of rust in the 6-3 victory.

"I thought we came out pretty strong, got up an early break on our court,” Schnur said. “We played solid doubles and took care of business.”

Valent was the opponent again for singles and posed more of a threat. Valent — the Commodores' only ranked singles player at No. 64 in the country — held tough against the 43rd-ranked Schnur.

After practicing outdoors all week, the Tar Heels learned just a few hours before the match that the games would be played indoors. Despite the adjustment, Schnur took the first set 6-4. 

“It’s a lot different inside, everything happens a lot faster ...” he said. “But we were able to figure it out.”

Valent took the second set 6-4, setting up a winner-take-all third set — something the Tar Heels haven't seen much of recently.

Since the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championship on Feb. 15, North Carolina hadn’t even reached a third set in a singles match. But Vanderbilt presented a challenge for UNC, forcing five of the six singles matches to a third set.

“We came out a little bit flat in singles and all of the sudden they jumped on us,” Coach Sam Paul said. “It was exactly what our team needed going into conference play. They pushed us and we needed that.”

Schnur went up 4-1 in the third set behind a big serve that wore Valent down as the match drew on. Valent battled back to make the score 5-3 — but in the ninth game, Schnur finished Valent off and secured his team the victory with a clinching ace to win in three sets.

In the Tar Heels’ final nonconference match of the season, Vanderbilt provided Schnur and North Carolina the tune-up the team needed before ACC competition.

“I think they were our first, real competitive match after Indoors," junior Ronnie Schneider said. "So it was good to get back on the horse and get ready for conference season, because every match is going to be like that one.”

After stepping back out on the court, Schnur said he is ready for conference play and more matches of Friday’s intensity level.

“The ACC is very tough. Every school is very good," he said. "We have a tough one on the road against (Florida State) that’s going to be very competitive, and we are looking forward to playing them again, for sure.”

@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com

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