In the end, both doubles teams pulled out 7-6 wins. A powerful Sanford ace put the exclamation point on the rally, and gave the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead in the match.
From there, the competitive tone was set for the singles matches.
The first two singles matches to finish gave the Commodores a 2-1 lead. No. 32 Aney struggled, losing 6-3, 6-2, and No. 8 Sanford lost 6-3, 6-4, dropping nine straight games.
Graham evened the score next for the Tar Heels, winning 6-3, 6-4. With the score 2-2, the match became a best of three — two wins would equal a team victory.
Daavettila rode the momentum of her doubles rally to a 6-3 win in the first set, but dropped the second, 6-4. She knew the third set would be crucial.
“I started out pretty good, but then I started racking up some errors and getting impatient," Daavettila said. "When the third set started, I realized I needed to do what I need to do to win the match.”
The final set was as tight as its predecessors. After alternating the first four games, Daavettila built a 4-2 lead and held that margin to a 6-4 finish to put the Tar Heels within a game of match victory. She said she was aware of the situation when she won her match.
“I definitely noticed," Daavettila said. "It gets you excited, and I wanted to play better for Makenna (Jones) and whoever else is on the court, and just really show energy."
On Court Six, Chloe Ouellet-Pizer took her opponent to a decisive third set, but eventually lost 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
With all other matches at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center finished, all eyes were on Court Two. The winner would capture the team victory.
A hush fell over the place between each point as players and fans alike watched Jones and her opponent fight to the finish. The first set began with a 4-4 tie, but ultimately fell 6-4 to Vanderbilt. Jones responded with a three-game rally in the second set after being down 5-2 and won 7-5, a temporary match-saving comeback.
In the third set, Jones mounted a 5-2 lead — one game away from victory — but a win just wasn't in the cards. She dropped four straight games to go down 6-5, kept hope alive in a tiebreaker, but couldn't finish. She struggled with her serve in the final moments to a 7-6 loss that ended on a double fault.
The close loss by Jones ended the team's 12-match win streak, but head coach Brian Kalbas still had nothing but praise for her.
“I’m real proud of her," he said. "The loss has not diminished anything, I just love how she fought and competed out there.”
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