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The Daily Tar Heel

With help from seniors, UNC women's tennis beats Pittsburgh 6-1

Jessie Aney Pittsburgh

Junior Jessie Aney hits a volley against Pittsburgh on April 22 at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.

The No. 1 North Carolina women’s tennis team defeated Pittsburgh 6-1 on Sunday afternoon on the Tar Heels' Senior Day.

What happened?

UNC (23-3, 12-2) just barely inched out a victory over the Panthers (6-15, 0-14) in the doubles matches, winning on two of three courts. In a surprise upset, Jessie Aney and Alexa Graham, the No. 1 doubles team in the country, were defeated by their Pittsburgh counterparts. 

The pair of Tar Heels took the first game of the set, but the two Panthers won the next four, breaking serve twice. Aney and Graham couldn’t find what was needed to claw their way back, eventually losing 6-2.

Alle Sanford and Makenna Jones, the Tar Heel duo on Court Two won their match swiftly. They won the first three games decisively, eventually clinching the match, 6-2.

The doubles point came down to Court Three, where the Tar Heels were represented by Maggie Kane and Cassandra Vazquez, two of the three graduating seniors. They went down early, 3-1, but showed the resilience that is characteristic of most seniors.

Kane and Vazquez tied it up 3-3, and broke serve in a huge game 7 to go up 4-3. Pitt fought backing, tying up the match at 4-4, but the Tar Heels broke serve again and went on to win 6-4.

After the senior team captured the doubles point, the team continued its success into singles play.

Graham finished first, overcoming her struggles in doubles play. She showed her dominance, pummeling her opponent 6-0, 6-2 in the second to win UNC its second point of the day.

Sanford finished next, continuing her momentum from her doubles, strong arming her opponent with ease, 6-1, 6-2. 

Marika Akkerman, the third senior graduating from UNC’s squad, won the clinching point for the win against the Panthers. Akkerman battled through a back-and-forth first set to win 6-4, then the tough opposition dissolved and she closed it out 6-0. 

The remaining three matches were played out, despite UNC clinching the win. No. 11 Makenna Jones won her singles match, 6-1, 6-4, while Chloe Ouellet-Pizer also battled out her match for a tough win, 6-1, 7-5. 

The only loss of the day for the Tar Heels came on Court Four for Jessie Aney. Aney split the first two sets, 4-6, 6-4, before falling 7-10 in a super breaker third set. 

Who stood out?

The three Tar Heels graduating this year were integral in the team's success on Sunday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. 

Down 3-1 in the doubles match, Vazquez and Kane’s determination shined through. They battled back, broke serve twice and ultimately clinched the match 6-4. 

The final point the Tar Heel’s needed to win also came from a senior. Akkerman, on the far Court Six, battled through a lengthy the first set, winning 6-4. After the prolonged first set, it seemed as if Jones or Ouellet-Pizer were going to beat Akkerman to the fourth point, but the senior eventually finished first.

Akkerman walloped the Panther across court from her, 6-0, pumping her fist high to claim the final win for UNC in its last match of the season.

When was it decided?

It seemed clear that UNC would win Sunday’s match as soon as the lady Tar Heels dispersed from a raucous celebration after Kane and Vazquez’s doubles win. With wind in their sails and postgame senior celebrations on their minds, the Tar Heels stormed into the singles matches like a Midwest tornado. And they followed through on the momentum thereafter.

Why does it matter?

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In the last four years, this senior class has been a part of the program's most successful most successful stretch in school history. Kane, Vazquez and Akkerman have collectively been a part of three ITA national indoor championships, two ACC championships and three ACC regular-season titles. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heel women’s tennis team will hop over to Cary on April 25 to kick off the ACC tournament.

@petrucci_daniel

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com