The record-setting season for the North Carolina men’s tennis team officially came to an end Saturday.
The No. 27 team of juniors Brayden Schnur and Jack Murray lost in the quarterfinals of the doubles tournament to No. 63 Rogerio Ribeiro and David Biosca of East Tennessee State, 6-2, 7-6 (7). Junior Ronnie Schneider also lost in his Round-of-16 matchup on Friday to Illinois sophomore Aleks Vukic in straight sets at the Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla.
Schnur and Murray were initially alternates for the doubles tournament, and were only placed in the tournament the day before it was set to begin. The duo took advantage of their opportunity, defeating two higher-ranked opponents No. 14 Zvonimir Babic and Filip Kraljevic of Ole Miss and No. 22 Herkko Pollanen and Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State to reach the quarterfinals.
Having won their first two matches in straight sets, the pair struggled early, dropping the first set 6-2. The duo seemed to find their rhythm to start the second set, and jumped out to a 4-1 lead. They could not hold their lead, however, and would end up in a second-set tiebreaker to determine the fate of their season. After a tough battle, the juniors would come up just short, ending the last chance the team had of finishing the season with a title.
Following a second-round upset of No. 11 Benjamin Lock of Florida State to earn All-America honors, Schneider was set to face off against No. 4 Aleks Vukic of Illinois,for the second time this season. The two battled on January 30 in Chapel Hill, as Schneider found himself down a set and headed to a second-set tiebreaker when his team clinched a 4-0 victoryover the Fighting Illini. Schneider again struggled with Vukic on Friday, losing in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1.
Who Stood Out?
Schnur, Schneider and Murray all bounced back well following the team’s 4-0 quarterfinal loss to Georgia. For Schneider, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen was a career high for him.
Even though Schnur struggled in singles competition, he played well in doubles, leading the tandem to the quarterfinals, which had not been done by a UNC team since 2010. Murray said he was not expecting to be named an All-American at the beginning of the tournament.
“Playing at two doubles, and four and five singles, you don’t really think you’ll get much of a shot to see an All-American,” he said. “So for me, I’m really happy that I had the opportunity to do that.”
When was it decided?
After allowing their opponent to rally in the second set, Schnur and Murray were facing a tiebreaker to stay in the match. After UNC went up 2-1, the teams would trade points until the score was tied at seven. The duo would not win another point, giving the match to East Tennessee State.
Why does it Matter?
The losses end an historic season for the team. They won the program’s first ITA National Team Indoor Championship in February, set the single-season record for wins with 28 and achieved the first-ever No. 1 ranking for the program.
Despite coming up just short in the ACC tournament and again failing to reach the semifinals in the NCAA Tournament, the team has many positives to take from this season going forward.
If senior Brett Clark and sophomore Robert Kelly finish the season ranked in the top 10, they will also receive All-American honors. That would give the program a total of five, which would be a record for a single team that has not been reached since 1982.
Four of those players would be returning to the team next season. Including three seniors, including Schnur, who is the third three-time All-American in program history. That should give Coach Sam Paul a lot of talent to make another run at history next season.
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