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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's tennis sweeps opening matches despite youth

UNC first-year William Blumberg returns a volley during his singles match on Saturday against Bucknell.

UNC first-year William Blumberg returns a volley during his singles match on Saturday against Bucknell.

The No. 9 North Carolina men’s tennis team opened its spring season on Saturday with two shut-out victories over Bucknell and Wofford. This year, the Tar Heels’ opening-day roster was comprised of eight underclassmen — a complete reversal from the team that head coach Sam Paul fielded last spring, when he had eight upperclassmen to rely on.

The team needs several of these players to step up this season if they hope to repeat the success from last year, when the Tar Heels made a run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore Blaine Boyden played well in the two victories with four combined wins, highlighted by a 6-0 doubles win over Bucknell while paired with first-year Joshua Peck and straight-sets singles victories over Wofford and Bucknell.

Despite the successes of some of the other underclassmen, the focus of the day was on the performance of first-year William Blumberg. Being the No. 1 high school recruit in the country, ranked as high as No. 4 in the International Tennis Federation’s rankings of all junior tennis players, can lead to high expectations for his collegiate debut. And he did not disappoint.

“I thought it was a great debut for him,” assistant coach Tripp Phillips said. “I know he was super excited for his first college match. There was a couple of little nerves early, but then he shook them off, and I thought he played really well.”

After he and new doubles partner Robert Kelly clinched the doubles point for the team against Bucknell, he stepped onto the court for his first collegiate singles match. After struggling to a tie through the first six games of the opening set, Blumberg found his groove, cruising to a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Bucknell junior Daniel Wright.

In the team’s afternoon match against Wofford, the duo of Kelly and Blumberg would again clinch the doubles point for the Tar Heels, this time with the rookie serving an ace to close out the match.

In his final match of the day, Blumberg found himself one game away from a sweep of his opening day of competition. But the match was called after Boyden clinched UNC’s fourth team point of the match on the court to his right.

Despite not closing out the match, he left little doubt as to the impact he could have for the Tar Heels this season.

“The kid’s super talented,” Kelly said. “Great hands, but we’re still trying to get our chemistry worked out.”

Blumberg said his final decision of where to attend college came down to the Tar Heels and ACC rival Virginia. With the individual talent of both teams being so high already, the choice came down to the friendships he had forged with the guys on the team during his visits in the fall.

“This team is more like a family,” he said. “It has a big-time family feel. The coaches here are awesome. Tripp and Coach Paul just care a lot about the team and the team loves each other.”

@CPhillips2020

sports@dailytarheel.com

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