The final score can sometimes deceive the eyes of the true battle that took place during competition.
By merely looking at the 7-0 dominating finish by the top-ranked North Carolina men’s tennis team on Friday, the team appeared to cruise to yet another easy victory against Vanderbilt in its last nonconference match of the season.
But in actuality, the match was an all out brawl between the two teams, as the Commodores (8-6) matched the Tar Heels (15-0) point for point throughout the contest.
North Carolina played well early by capturing the doubles point, which gave the team a 1-0 advantage going into singles play. Juniors Brayden Schnur and Jack Murray contributed to the point by winning 6-3, and senior Andrew Gores and junior Ronnie Schneider seized a 6-2 victory.
After its early success, UNC endured tough singles competition that took five of the six matches to the deciding third set. Robert Kelly was the lone Tar Heel to defeat his opponent in just two sets, winning 7-5, 6-3.
Three Tar Heels — Brett Clark, Schneider and Murray — had to battle all the way back to beat their opponents after dropping their first sets and digging a hole for themselves. Clark won 3-6, 6-4, 6-1; Schneider finished the day with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2 win; and Murray rallied to earn a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory.
First-year Blaine Boyden also won his match, defeating his opponent 6-2, 5-7, 6-0.
Reflecting on the match, Schneider said the stiff competition Vanderbilt provided will be valuable for the team going forward into conference play and beyond.
“I think today was a great step forward, and it was tough there at first,” Schneider said. “It was a real competitive match after indoors, so it was good to get back on the courts and get ready for conference season because every match in conference is going to be like that one.”
“I think my team can learn a lot from today, and as we move forward that was exactly what our team needed — to get pushed like this right before we go play conference.” — Coach Sam Paul on the close competition from Vanderbilt and what his team can learn from it.
Schnur was back on the court for the Tar Heels after sitting out the past three matches. He ended up defeating his opponent 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, clinching the win for North Carolina.
Three numbers that matter
17: The Tar Heels have been ranked No. 1 in the country for 17 days since defeating Virginia in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoors Championship on Feb. 15.
4: Prior to Friday's match, UNC hadn't had a match go into a third set in its past four matches.
35: In its past five matches, North Carolina has defeated its opponents by a combined margin of 35-0.
The Tar Heels open ACC play against Florida State at 5 p.m. on March 11 in Tallahassee, Fla.
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