After breezing by Notre Dame on Friday, the No. 7 North Carolina men’s tennis team finished ITA Kick-Off Weekend with a 4-1 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday at Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.
Head coach Sam Paul made a change in the doubles lineup prior to the start of the match. Sophomore Anu Kodali was substituted out on Court 2 in favor of Simon Soendergaard, a first-year player from Frederikssund, Denmark. Paired up with sophomore Blaine Boyden, the duo proved to be strong, as they easily defeated their opponents Lachlan McPhee and Billy Rowe.
Seniors Jack Murray and Ronnie Schneider also put on a strong performance and secured a 6-2 victory over Baker Newman and Panu Virtanen, allowing the Tar Heels to take an early 1-0 lead.
In singles play, North Carolina extended its lead to 2-0 after a straight-sets win by first-year William Blumberg. After Vanderbilt cut the lead to 2-1 with a singles win on Court 3, Murray and Schneider won their matches to give UNC the 4-1 win.
Who stood out?
In a direct contrast from Friday, Blumberg struggled with partner Robert Kelly in doubles competition, but found his stride when singles play started.
Going up against Commodore junior Danny Valent, Blumberg defeated him 6-3 in the first set, and then finished him off in the second set with a 6-2 victory. Murray also aided the Tar Heels in singles play by defeating his opponent, 6-3 in both sets.
When was it decided?
Singles play once again proved to be difficult for the Tar Heels on Saturday.
Kelly and first-year Josh Peck were both met with strong challenges in their individual matches, while Soendergaard was bested in straight sets, leaving the match in the hands of Schneider.
Schneider and his opponent, Cameron Klinger, were evenly matched, and the UNC junior vented his frustration a couple of times during the match. However, Schneider continued to play hard, and eventually sealed the victory for the Tar Heels by defeating Klinger in two sets.
Why does it matter?
The ITA Kick-Off Weekend served to provide a major test to the Tar Heels, and Paul believed that his team passed the early imposing challenge.
He acknowledged the strength of both Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, but Paul believed his team played their best match in doubles competition so far this season.
Paul added that the Tar Heels need to work on their conditioning for the games ahead, but also believes his team is more than ready for teams stronger than Vanderbilt and Notre Dame.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will not get much time to rest for their next competition, as they will travel to Champaign, Ill., to face the No. 17 Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
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