The Tar Heels (29-2, 14-0 ACC) have amassed 116 wins and played in the national title match in 2014. They have won every regular season ACC match in the past two years.
But one thing Dai hadn’t seen was an ACC Tournament championship.
Now, she can put that on her resume, as well.
Playing as the No. 1 seed, the Tar Heels defeated Wake Forest (4-1), Virginia (4-1) and Miami (4-2) in consecutive days to earn the championship.
“I’m just so proud of our team,” said Coach Brian Kalbas after Sunday’s win over the Hurricanes. “There were so many momentum switches throughout the match, and I’m just really excited for our seniors to win this.”
Dai won her matches against Wake Forest and Virginia, but the senior was locked in a three-set battle on Sunday against Miami and did not finish her match before the Tar Heels clinched the title.
“It just has always been our goal to carry that big old trophy,” Dai said. “We talk about it and we work for it and we think about it and when it was finally there, we were just kind of like, ‘OK, let’s take it one at a time and enjoy every moment.’”
Not every moment this weekend was as enjoyable for UNC.
In the championship match on Sunday, the Tar Heels found themselves tied at 2 despite winning the doubles point. Four of the six singles matches went to three sets, but UNC finished strong by winning the final two matches to capture that elusive ACC Tournament championship.
Junior Hayley Carter — the nation’s No. 1 player — said the mental toughness the Tar Heels demonstrated during the title match was the culmination of all they had put in during the season.
“Coach says it all the time: we’re the hardest working team he’s had,” said Carter, who won the ACC Tournament MVP after earning ACC Player of the Year honors.
“And I think we know when times get tough, we can rely on that work we’ve put in. And I think that showed today.”
For the first time in her career, Dai could enjoy every moment.
“To finally be able to do it as a senior ... was just an unreal feeling that I can’t even put into words,” she said.
The Tar Heels have until May 13 to enjoy this victory before the NCAA Tournament begins.
Dai has seen her team win from Las Vegas to Puerto Rico and everywhere in between. But the senior would like nothing more than to see her team win in Tulsa, Okla. — the site of the national championship.