The true mark of a good team is that it beats teams it's supposed to beat. It has leaders that do not let it lose focus for a moment or play down to the level of its competition.
By this standard, the North Carolina women’s tennis team is a good team.
Leadership from its two top players — junior Hayley Carter and senior Whitney Kay — propelled the No. 3 Tar Heels (21-2, 9-0 ACC) to a 7-0 dismantling of the Louisville Cardinals (7-13, 0-10 ACC) on Saturday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.
The No. 1 ranked duo of Carter and Kay demonstrated early what it takes to be a dominant team, overwhelming its doubles opponent in a 6-1 victory.
“I think we started out both so strong in doubles and got off to a quick start and kind of, hopefully, helped get the momentum going for us in doubles as a team,” Carter said.
Partners Ashley Dai and Chloe Ouellet-Pizer built on what Carter and Kay started to finish off their match strong and secure the doubles point for the Tar Heels with a 6-3 win.
Coach Brian Kalbas said he was very pleased with how Carter and Kay performed.
“They’ve had a target on their back all year long being ranked No. 1 in the nation and they’ve taken everybody’s best shot,” Kalbas said. “I’m just really proud of those guys being such great leaders and getting off to such great starts and finishing.”
In singles play, No. 1 Carter and No. 29 Kay again set the tempo by making quick work of their opponents with 6-1, 6-1 and 6-2, 6-1 wins, respectively — giving the Tar Heels a commanding 3-0 lead. Sophomore Marika Akkerman clinched the win for North Carolina with a straight-sets win on Court No. 4.
The remaining Tar Heels played with no pressure knowing the victory was safe. None of them dropped a set on their way to a 7-0 win.
The matchup with Louisville was sandwiched between two Triangle opponents — No. 10 Duke and N.C. State. Carter said the Tar Heels easily could have reveled in beating the Blue Devils on Tuesday or looked ahead to playing the Wolfpack on Wednesday.
But Saturday there was no letdown. Not with leaders like Carter or Kay.
“We came off of beating Duke.” Kay said. “Obviously, that’s a great win — exciting for us, but we try to take every team really seriously no matter who they are.”
Kalbas said he knew the potential threat Louisville posed and tried to emphasize being competitive in practice this week.
“All through the conference, there’s teams getting upset here and there," he said. "And just because where we are ranked or what they’re ranked doesn’t mean they’re going to come out here and just roll over.”
Carter and Kay knew a match with Louisville was just as meaningful in the ACC race as a match with Duke or N.C. State — and they played like it.
They played like the leaders they are.
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