The No. 8 North Carolina men’s tennis team beat the heat — and Georgia Tech — on Saturday, 4-1, to earn its eighth conference win on the season.
North Carolina (17-4, 8-1 ACC) started the day strong against Georgia Tech (5-14, 1-8 ACC) with two quick doubles wins to clinch the doubles point.
On Court Three, sophomore Simon Soendergaard and his first-year partner Mac Kiger were able to take the match against the pair from Georgia Tech after a few crucial breaks early on in the set.
Next to them on Court Two, junior Blaine Boyden and first-year Ben Sigouin were able to break their opponents to win the match, and clinch the doubles point, after a long, close match. Court Two's match stayed close for its entirety until the final game: With Georgia Tech on serve at 5-4, Boyden and Sigouin broke Georgia Tech's pair to end the match.
North Carolina's doubles team on Court One — sophomore William Blumberg and senior Robert Kelly — went unfinished. When play stopped, Georgia Tech was serving for the match to defeat the top-ranked men’s doubles duo in the nation.
Despite playing extremely well in doubles, singles play did not come as easily for the Tar Heels.
On Court One, No. 2 Blumberg was up 4-0 and heading to a first set win when the tides of the game turned. Blumberg allowed his opponent to win three straight games before finally holding his serve. Blumberg finally closed the first set 6-4. Motivated after clinching the first set, Blumberg powered through the second, going up a few breaks to make the score 5-2.
Blumberg was able to serve the final game to win the match 6-4, 6-2, and he earned the Tar Heels their first singles point.
Shortly following Blumberg, Kelly on Court Three was able to secure the Tar Heels' second singles win, and third overall point, winning his match 6-4, 6-3.
With only one point needed to secure the conference win, the remaining courts had to dig deep to find the motivation to beat the heat, and their opponents.
Who stood out?
After going down 5-1 in the first set — and eventually losing it 6-3 — Boyden knew he needed to make some changes if he wanted to win his match and continue his undefeated record. And he did: Boyden gathered himself between sets and came out with a completely different energy to seize momentum in the second set.
His serve became more consistent, and his undeniable energy allowed him to force two quick breaks that eventually allowed him to go up 5-2 in the second set. Boyden won the second set 6-3.
Continuing what worked for him in the second set, Boyden kept pushing, eventually winning the third set 6-2, and securing the Tar Heels' fourth and final overall point. 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
When was it decided?
Despite quick singles wins by Blumberg and Kelly, the Tar Heels were in rough shape on other courts.
After Kiger dropped his match, the fate of UNC in this conference match was held in the hands of Boyden, sophomore Josh Peck and Soendergaard. All three matches were in a third and deciding set.
With Peck on serve against his opponent at 3-3 in the third set, the match was not decided until Boyden was able to come back and decisively win his match. With Boyden’s win, the Tar Heels' win was effectively decided against Georgia Tech, and the remaining two matches were left unfinished.
Why does it matter?
With only one home match and two away matches remaining in their season, an eighth conference win will not improve the record or ranking of the Tar Heels. That said, the win proved that UNC could win its closest matches, even when it has to rely on the bottom half of its lineup to do so.
When do they play next?
North Carolina defeated Clemson, 4-0, in another conference match at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon. The team's next match will take place on Friday at 5 p.m. against Florida State.
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.