It was an opportunity for the players to support one of their teammates, and to again prove that when someone in the Tar Heel tennis family needs them, they will always be there.
Right before the season began, sophomore Blaine Boyden’s mother, Pam, was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. Boyden, whose win on Tuesday moved his dual-match record to 10-0, has found strength in his mom all season and finds solace every time he steps on the court.
“Right now tennis really isn’t the most important thing for me,” he said. “I’m just playing loose. It’s my escape in a way, just to go out there and have some fun.”
The day after UNC’s loss to Virginia on Feb. 19, Boyden found out that his mom was losing her hair because of the chemotherapy treatments and shaved his head to support her. All of his teammates decided the following day to shave their heads together.
“A lot of these guys, they care a lot about their hair,” Boyden said. “For them to do that for me, it meant the world, and I know it meant the world to my mom.”
Senior Ronnie Schneider, who lives with Boyden, said that when they heard the news, it was a no-brainer for the team to do whatever they could to support the family.
“She’s all the time bringing us sweets and goodie bags and stuff like that,” Schneider said. “She’s a big part of our team. So for her to find out that news would obviously be devastating to anyone, but it was devastating to us. We felt for Bo.”
The Tar Heels had sealed the win as Boyden was battling through a tough second set, but he still had something to play for. His mom, who had a chemotherapy treatment just hours before, came to see his match.
“It’s crazy; she’s such a fighter,” he said. “It kind of gave me the strength to go out and play. She’s fighting life and death, and for me it’s just a tennis match. So when I’m out there suffering a bit, I just look at her, and I see that she’s suffering a lot more. It keeps me at peace and really helps me focus on court.”
With the Macholls, whose young son Mick died last year after battling cancer, also in attendance for the match, head coach Sam Paul said the team has learned about what really matters.
“I think that’s something for all of us to get this whole thing in perspective,” he said. “The Macholls are here today, and it’s a tennis match. Bo’s mom is here, it’s a tennis match. That’s life lessons.”