The No. 4 North Carolina women’s tennis team swept No. 8 Michigan 4-0 on Thursday in the team’s final non-conference match of the regular season at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. The Tar Heels (21-2) avenged their 5-2 loss to the Wolverines (13-4) last season in Ann Arbor.
Head coach Brian Kalbas tweaked the doubles lineups to try and find better chemistry across all three doubles teams, and saw positive results. Senior Hayley Carter and first-year Sara Daavettila re-teamed and picked up where they left off earlier this season, defeating the No. 27 tandem of Mira Ruder-Hook and Brienne Minor, 6-1. Redshirt senior Rachael James-Baker and sophomore Jessie Aney paired together for the first time and recorded a 6-1 victory of their own, giving their team an early 1-0 lead.
Around the midway point of the singles matches, the rain that was threatening all afternoon finally fell, forcing players and fans to run to the indoor courts. The Tar Heels were unaffected by the change in conditions. Sophomore Chloe Ouellet-Pizer quickly doubled her teams lead with a straight-sets win, 6-2, 6-3. Carter put her team one point away from victory with a convincing straight-sets win over No. 22 Minor.
Who stood out?
The bottom of the singles lineup was key today for UNC. Ouellet-Pizer and first-year Makenna Jones both picked up wins for their team. Ouellet-Pizer won pretty easily in straight sets, but for Jones it was more of a struggle. She won the opening set without dropping a game, but struggled in the second set after having to move indoors, only to rally to convincingly win the deciding set.
When was it decided?
With No. 6 Daavettila and No. 26 Aney battling through tough matches, it was Jones who closed out her match in three sets and clinched a momentum-building victory for her team. After losing the second set 6-3, she rallied against Ruder-Hook, whose game is better suited for the indoor courts, and won the final set 6-2. The remaining two matches were left unfinished with Aney down 3-2 in the third set, and Daavettila up one game, and trying to battle back from a one-set deficit.
Why does it matter?
There were two big steps forward for UNC in Thursday’s top-10 matchup. Kalbas seems to have found the right combination with his doubles lineup. If the doubles pairings can carry this momentum through the rest of the regular season, they would be playing their best tennis of year heading into postseason play.
If the bottom of UNC’s singles lineup can also continue to play well heading into the postseason that could give the Tar Heels an advantage against the top teams that they will play in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
“It’s absolutely what we need,” said Kalbas. “Against really good teams the bottom of the lineup has been a struggle. To beat a top-10 team, and win at five and six is huge for us.”
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels begin a streak of three straight conference matches on the road on Sunday. They will take on Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. at 11 a.m.
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