Having lost two of their past three matches, a home match against No. 30 Georgia Tech and a meeting with archrival No. 64 Duke were the Tar Heels’ last two chances to show their recent losing streak was an aberration and not a trend.
And with a 4-3 victory against the Yellow Jackets on Friday and a 6-1 win over the Blue Devils on Sunday, they did just that.
It looked as if the Tar Heels’ troubles would continue early on Friday, as the team dropped the doubles point and 4-of-6 first sets in singles play. After the team’s tough start, senior Brett Clark tried to get his team back on track.
“I didn’t want to lose my last regular-season home match. I’ve had so much success here over the years, we didn’t want to remember the last one as a negative,” he said. “I really wanted to win, probably the most I’ve ever wanted to win a regular-season match.”
With UNC trailing 2-0, sophomore Robert Kelly picked up the team’s first point with a straight-sets victory. Clark followed up his doubles partner’s win with a victory of his own to tie the score.
After junior Brayden Schnur lost a tight third set to Christopher Eubanks, junior Ronnie Schneider and first-year Anu Kodali needed to win to clinch the victory.
And win they did.
Schneider, who clinched the victory with his 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win, was thinking about the seniors toward the end of his match.
“I just kept hearing Brett in my head,” he said. “I don’t think I could look at Brett, or any of those seniors, for I don’t know how long if I had lost that match.”
After pulling out a close win on Friday, the Tar Heels were looking to make a statement with a win against Duke on its senior day.
“We always know no matter what’s going on in their season individually, they’re going to give us their best shot so we came in here prepared,” Kelly said. “You never want to lose to Duke, no matter what Duke team shows up.”
The Tar Heels came out hot early and quickly took the doubles point with victories by the teams of Schnur and junior Jack Murray as well as Kodali and Schneider.
Kelly, first-year Blaine Boyden, Clark and Murray then won their singles matches in straight sets to clinch the victory.
UNC needed two strong performances to show it was still a top-tier ACC team entering this weekend’s conference tournament.
And with a comeback win over a quality opponent and a lopsided victory over a bitter rival, the Tar Heels reversed one trend and potentially started another.