The No. 1 North Carolina men’s tennis team faced off against the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers on Friday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center in a rematch of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor Championships. A match the Tar Heels won.
They were looking to prove that their victory earlier this season was not a fluke.
The Tar Heels (21-1, 6-1 ACC) beat the Cavaliers (16-3, 6-1 ACC) 4-3, earning the programs first victory over Virginia in Chapel Hill since 2006.
After redshirt-senior Andrew Gores and junior Ronnie Schneider lost their doubles match 6-0, the Tar Heels needed victories by their top two teams to secure the doubles point, and gain the early momentum.
After holding 5-4 leads on courts one and two, the pairings of senior Brett Clark and sophomore Robert Kelly and juniors Brayden Schnur and Jack Murray were forced into tiebreakers.
Schnur and Murray would close out first, winning 7-5, followed only minutes later by Clark and Kelly, who defeated the No. 2 ranked doubles team of senior Ryan Shane and junior Luca Corinteli, 8-6.
Kelly carried the momentum of the doubles win into his singles match, defeating J.C. Aragone in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 and giving his team a 2-0 lead. His victory avenged his loss to Aragone earlier this season, which is his only loss in singles competition this spring.
“I came out with a purpose. I played J.C. before twice, and got chopped twice,” he said. “He kind of had my number a couple of times, but third time's the charm.”
Virginia picked up its first point of the day when sophomore Henrik Wiersholm defeated Murray 6-2, 6-3. The Tar Heels answered back quickly with first-year Anu Kodali winning in two sets, both with a 6-4 score. His victory left the team needing only one more point to clinch the match, with the top three players still in action.
All three matches would go to a deciding third set. With Schneider up 4-1, and Clark up 3-2, Schnur headed to a tiebreaker for the second time that day. This time he was facing Shane, the No. 8 ranked player and the defending NCAA singles champion. He would clinch the tiebreaker 7-5, giving his team the win.
“He’s a game day guy. On big days, big occasions, he’s just there,” Coach Sam Paul said. “He’s done it his whole career. He loves the moment and loves the bigger crowds.”
Despite third-set losses by Clark and Schneider, the team proved their point.
They do have the talent to beat mighty Virginia, and they are here to stay.
“It’s big for us. I think a lot of people thought that us beating them at indoors was a one off thing, and we know that it’s not, and that we’re here to stay, and we’re trying to make this program. They’ve had an incredible run of nine or 10 years where they’ve been dominant, and we’re trying to replicate that and build our Carolina brand.” — Kelly on what beating Virginia twice in the same season does for the program.
Before the Cavalier's loss on Friday, they had not lost an ACC regular-season contest since the Tar Heels defeated them, 4-3, on April 14, 2006.
Three numbers that matter
6: The number of top-25 ranked teams the Tar Heels have victories over this spring.
3: The number of tiebreakers in the match, all of which were won by North Carolina.
2: This is the second time this season that Schnur and Shane have played matches decided by a tiebreaker. Schnur has been victorious both times.
The Tar Heels will host their second top-10 team in a row, as No. 6 Wake Forest will be at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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