A team struggling to find its way often looks to its senior leader for guidance.
And Brett Clark, the senior leader for the No. 1 North Carolina men’s tennis team, delivered all he could this weekend.
While the team sputtered in a 5-2 loss to Notre Dame on Friday and recovered for a 6-1 win against Boston College on Sunday, Clark did all he could to will his team to victory. He was undefeated in two doubles and two singles matches.
“I knew coming into the year that I was definitely one of the oldest that was going to be looked to as the leader on the team,” Clark said. “I took everything that I’ve learned from the guys in the past that were former captains and former leaders on the team and just tried to help the guys out in any way I could.”
Against Notre Dame, he did just that. Clark and sophomore Robert Kelly — the No. 1 doubles pair in the country — secured a 6-4 doubles victory over the nation’s No. 12 group for Notre Dame. Yet the Tar Heels lost the remaining two doubles matches to lose the point.
“I just focused on my court,” Clark said. “You can’t get caught up in the emotions on the road, so that was definitely my goal and I thought I did a good job staying in the moment.”
Clark continued his winning ways in singles, downing his opponent in three sets. Junior Ronnie Schneider recorded the only other North Carolina point in the 5-2 loss.
“It was a tough one on Friday,” Kelly said. “It was their senior night, so we knew they were going to be pumped up. They hit us first and we reacted instead of being the first one to throw a punch.”
Coach Sam Paul said the team had to forget about the loss quickly and prepare for Boston College.
“We talked to the guys and we challenged them to get ready to go,” he said.
The team refocused to meet Paul’s challenge — winning 6-1. Clark didn’t need to refocus, though. He already was.
He and Kelly snagged an early 6-2 win with Schneider and first-year Anu Kodali teaming to win the second doubles match and the first team point.
In singles play, Clark got off the court quickly with a straight-set win, only dropping two games. Kelly and junior Brayden Schnur also won in straight sets to clinch the victory.
“It was a very good bounce-back effort today by the guys,” Paul said. “After taking a lick on Friday and then coming back up here to Boston, tough preparation coming in and getting here late last night and getting ready to go.”
Clark said he credits his dominating performances to his experience with road matches and hostile crowds.
“When you’re playing match after match, you just get into a rhythm,” he said. “I think I found that now late in the ACC season and I just have to keep working hard and put everything I got left into it, because it’s almost over.”
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