The No. 4 North Carolina men’s tennis team defeated No. 27 Vanderbilt, 6-1, at the Currey Tennis Center in Nashville, Tenn. This is the Tar Heels' (12-1) second victory over the Commodores (8-4) in a month; UNC's first victory was a 4-1 win during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
After struggling with doubles play in the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, UNC got back on track by taking the opening point against Vanderbilt. With senior Ronnie Schneider not playing in Monday’s match, the team had two new pairings in the doubles lineup. It was the one traditional duo, No. 16 junior Robert Kelly and first-year William Blumberg, that was first off the court with a 6-3 win.
With senior Jack Murray and first-year Simon Soendergaard down, 5-3, it was sophomores Blaine Boyden and Anu Kodali that solidified the point for their team.
The Commodores evened the score when Soendergaard, playing at the No. 2 position, dropped his singles match in straight sets. Blumberg, playing at No. 1, was also down early in the opening set. However, he would battle back to take the set, 7-5, and would cruise to a second-set win that would put the Tar Heels up for good.
Kelly also grinded out a tough opening-set win after going to a tiebreak to decide it. Following his teammate’s lead, he also used that momentum to easily take his second set, leaving UNC one point from victory.
Who stood out?
Blumberg’s victory showed that if the team needs him to, he can move to the No. 1 position and secure a win against the opponent’s top player. Kelly continued his winning ways during the dual-match season, moving his record to 9-0 in 2017 dual matches. Boyden’s match-clinching victory was his ninth straight, and Murray’s win was the 89th of his career.
When was it decided?
With Murray heading to a third set, and the sixth singles match yet to start due to five courts only being able to be used at a time, Boyden clinched the win for his team with a 6-3, 7-5 victory. The remaining two matches were allowed to finish with Murray and sophomore Arturo Schmidt both picking up victories.
Why does it matter?
With UNC’s final nonconference match coming on the road against a quality opponent, it was a good chance for the team to answer a couple of questions before heading into ACC play. First, the Tar Heels showed that their recent struggles with the doubles point was just an aberration and not a trend. Boyden and Kodali showed their chemistry from pairing together last season, and they proved they are another option for head coach Sam Paul going forward.
The team also showed that it has the depth to win against good teams if it has to play without one of its top players during the season.
Where do they play next?
UNC will be back at home for its ACC opener against rival Duke at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7.
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