The No. 3 North Carolina men’s tennis team was defeated by No. 7 Georgia, 4-0, in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals at the Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla., on Sunday, The Bulldogs (24-4) ended the Tar Heels (28-5) run at what would have been the first Final Four appearance in program history.
The Tar Heels faced an uphill climb early after dropping the doubles point to the Bulldogs. The results on the three courts were the exact opposite from the last time UNC played.
With sophomore Robert Kelly again out of the lineup, senior Brett Clark was paired with first-year Blaine Boyden. The chemistry was better for this pairing, and they won their match easily, 6-2. The duo of junior Ronnie Schneider and first-year Anu Kodali could not repeat their Elite Eight performance, and dropped their match 6-3, again leaving the doubles point up to the play of juniors Brayden Schnur and Jack Murray.
The two were again entrenched in a tough contest. After the teams traded games to a 5-5 tie, the juniors dropped the final two games. Giving Georgia the early advantage, and surrendering UNC’s first point of the NCAA tournament.
The Tar Heels’ appeared as if they were turning momentum around in singles, with Schnur and Clark winning first sets, 6-4, 6-2 respectively. However, the rest of the team could not continue the trend, and they lost the other four first sets in the match.
The bottom three in the Tar Heels lineup continued to struggle in their second sets. Murray did not win a game in his second set, giving Georgia a 2-0 lead. With Schnur and Clark both up 5-3, and serving for their matches, Kodali and Boyden dropped their matches, putting UNC out of the tournament with a 4-0 defeat.
Who Stood Out?
Clark was the bright spot for the Tar Heels in what was otherwise a poor showing for the team in the biggest match of their season.
The senior looked ready to do everything he could to keep his season alive for one more day. He was part of the team that picked up the only victory in doubles for the Tar Heels, and was on the verge of clinching a point for his team with a straight-set victory when the match was stopped.
When was it decided?
Coming back from losing the doubles point is always a difficult challenge for any team. Once the Bulldogs gained the early advantage, they never let the Tar Heels into the match.
After Murray lost his match, only winning a total of three games, Georgia finished off UNC's two first-year players in quick fashion. The top three players for the Tar Heels were never given a chance to make an impact on the match.
Why does it Matter?
The loss is the third straight for the Tar Heels in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. The team will have to wait another year for a chance to make what has been, to this point, an elusive Final Four appearance for the program.
The seniors, who are the winningest class in program history, began the spring season with the first ITA Indoors Championship and set the record for wins in a season, but could not bring home the most important trophy of all.
The good news for Coach Sam Paul is that almost all of the players from this season’s team will return next year, including five of six starters. Schnur, Schneider and Murray will all be seniors, and Kelly will be a junior, giving the Tar Heels a lot of experience to rely on next season.
Where do they play next?
Schnur, Schneider and Clark will represent the team in the NCAA singles tournament, and Clark and Kelly will be the representative in the doubles tournament. Both tournaments will run from May 25 through 30.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.