Despite sweeping its weekend matches, the No. 8 North Carolina men's tennis team is looking ahead. The players want more.
UNC (18-4, 9-1 ACC) dominated its weekend of ACC play. The Tar Heels dropped only one individual contest in their final two regular-season home matches in wins over Georgia Tech and Clemson.
“This is what we’ve been working for,” head coach Sam Paul said. “Let’s go get it; let’s go play.”
In their 4-1 win over Georgia Tech (5-14, 1-9 ACC) on Saturday, the Tar Heels were clinical. The doubles teams of Simon Soendergaard-Mac Kiger and Blaine Boyden-Benjamin Sigouin won, 6-2 and 6-4, respectively.
This earned UNC the doubles point, leaving the No. 1 pair of William Blumberg and Robert Kelly to abandon their match. It was fortunate for the two, as they were down 6-5 to the No. 21 pair of Carlos Divar and Michael Kay.
In singles, the Tar Heels got straight-set wins from No. 2 Blumberg and Kelly, as well as a hard-earned, three-set victory from Blaine Boyden in the deciding match. Boyden, who after this weekend is 19-0 in singles matches, including a 10-0 conference mark, felt that something needed to change for the team’s upcoming Sunday match, despite its impressive win the day before.
“I knew that my energy was low,” the Raleigh native said. “The energy overall just needs to improve a bit, and I think it will. I think we’ll all rally around Kelly, since it’s his last time out here on the courts. We’re gonna let it rip tomorrow and give it all we have.”
That’s exactly what the Tar Heels did in their 4-0 win over Clemson (9-11, 3-9 ACC) on Sunday. It was senior day for the Tar Heels, who celebrated the career of their lone senior, Kelly. Paul gave a speech between doubles and singles matches to applaud Kelly on his many achievements with the program. But the stellar play from his teammates in giving him a final home win spoke the most on how much he means to the team.
In doubles, the pairs of Soendergaard-Kiger and Boyden-Sigouin dominated again, winning 6-0 and 6-1, respectively. This once again left the No. 1 pair of Blumberg and Kelly to abandon their match in order to save energy.
In singles, it was the back half of matches that won it for the Tar Heels — Josh Peck on Court Six, Kiger on Court Five and Boyden on Court Four each won in straight sets. Kiger, who had the sole singles loss for UNC on Saturday, didn’t let that affect him as he headed into his next match less than a day later.
“I like having a match the next day after you lose one,” the first-year said. “You just get right back on the horse and you’re forced to get over it.”
Kiger, along with his teammates, is always looking ahead. After a weekend filled with two decisive wins, the Tar Heels are already focused on finishing the regular season and moving on to tournament play.
“The next couple matches are going to be tough,” Boyden said. “We’re expecting very competitive matches, but we’re looking forward to it.”
With their only two remaining matches against conference opponents in No. 13 Florida State and unranked Miami, the Tar Heels need to win out to possibly secure a spot as ACC champion over No. 1 Wake Forest.
While it was great to win quick back-to-back home matches, UNC is ready for a new challenge.
“If we beat Florida State and Miami,” Kelly said, “we are co-champs of the ACC. That’s something I haven’t done in my three years, so that’s really cool and something I’m looking forward to.”
The Tar Heels will be traveling to Tallahassee, Fla., on April 20 to take on the Seminoles, and then to Coral Gables two days later to face the Hurricanes. Paul isn’t worried, though. This kind of stretch is what the squad has been training for all season. The team is always looking ahead.
"We’re looking forward to it,” Paul said. “We’ve been training hard. We’re doing stuff right now to help us three, four weeks from now. And we did stuff three weeks ago to help us for today.”
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