On Sunday, the North Carolina men's tennis team defeated Miami, 4-0, to finish conference play with an 11-1 record, the best mark in program history. The No. 6 Tar Heels clinched a share of first place in the ACC and will be the No. 2 seed in the ACC Championship.
Staff writer Ryan Lipton spoke with head coach Sam Paul over the phone on Tuesday afternoon about his team's strong finish to the regular season ahead of the ACC Championship this weekend. The Tar Heels will face the winner of N.C. State and Miami on Friday at 5 p.m in Cary.
The Daily Tar Heel: On Sunday, you guys beat Miami after a bunch of rain delays. What was your biggest takeaway from Sunday’s win and how does it feel to be ACC champs?
Sam Paul: First of all, to win the regular season, it’s a tough league. It is one of the toughest leagues in the country. To win the regular season is certainly a great accomplishment. Again, our guys worked hard. I am so proud of my team because they worked hard all season to get to that point to do that. I’m happy for them, but now we want to refocus to what we have been concerned about all year and get ready for the ACC Tournament.
DTH: You guys are the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament. What are you telling your team going into the first match?
SP: We got just one match at a time. Whoever we play, it’s one match at a time. Like I said, it is a really, really, tough league. I think the two teams that we play are going to be in the NCAA tournament, both excellent coaches and very good programs. We got to be ready for Friday.
DTH: What is it like having two such talented and young players in William Blumberg, No. 3 ranked sophomore, and also Benjamin (Sigouin), first-year and No. 30 in the country?
SP: Again, they are both, one, great guys off the court. So that has really been a pleasure to work with them ... again, I think I want to talk about senior Robert Kelly, who has had a great career for us. He is still ranked No. 1 in the country in doubles. And just think about the seniors about his time and happy for him to get an ACC regular season championship and he gets to look forward to playing.
DTH: Is there anything that stood out with this team that makes them who they are? You mentioned the seniors before, but is there anything more to that?
SP: They work hard. They are a group that gets along. They have grown and gotten better as the year has gone on. They’ve grown and gotten better. I’m proud of them.
DTH: Last season you guys lost in the championship match to Virginia. Is there anything you guys are going to do differently this year and do you think that experience is going to help in the postseason?
SP: I think that helps the guys that were there last year to be in that situation and that we learned from that. Same thing for me, that certainly helps to have been there before.
DTH: You already have the share of the ACC title, most conference wins. Is it important to the guys at all to continue to make history and make a big impact on the UNC program or are you just looking at the now?
SP: That can be talked about afterward. Certainly, they accomplished something that hadn’t been done in 20 years. Right, when they are retired sitting on the pond fishing, they can remember that. But we want more, that’s why they came here. We want more. We want to do more in the ACC Tournament, more in the NCAAs. We want more. That’s it.
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