DURHAM— After the No. 1 North Carolina women’s tennis team lost 5-2 to No. 4 Duke on Friday night, sophomore Makenna Jones felt a bittersweet taste — personal success mixed with team failure.
The Tar Heels and the Blue Devils entered Friday night tied for first place in the ACC, with the winner securing the ACC regular season championship.
UNC jumped out to a promising start. The Tar Heels secured their first point of the night in the doubles round. The pairs of Jones/Marika Akkerman and No. 1 Jessie Aney/Alexa Graham both defeated their opponents, 6-4 and 7-6(5), respectively, to give UNC the doubles point.
But despite UNC’s quick start, the team lost its first five individual matches to fall behind, 5-1.
“Didn’t get off to some good starts,” head coach Brian Kalbas said. “In some of the matches, they got three quick points on the board. But we battled. We fought back. We got down in some of those third sets and came back. I’m just proud of our team. A tough place to play. They were obviously very talented.”
Five of the six individual matches were over and Duke had clinched the victory, but No. 11 Jones was still competing, in the midst of her third set against No. 4 Samantha Harris. Jones took the first set of the match, 7-5, before Harris responded with a dominating 6-1 victory in the second set.
The duel, which went to a third-set tiebreaker, may have been the the best one of the night, matching up the two highest ranked players on the court. Fatigue certainly played a role in the match.
“Honestly after the first set, it was already coming in,” Jones said. “I was just starting the second set and everyone was already almost on a third set. It was tough. I let it get to me a bit in the second set, so that’s kind of why I didn’t do as well.”
After a lackluster second set, Jones found a way to bounce back. Jones and Harris battled in the third set, but neither could gain an upper hand over the other, sending the deciding set to a tiebreaker. Jones eventually won the tiebreaker, defeating the No. 4 player in the nation.
“I was really gritty, really resilient,” Jones said. “Which was great, especially considering the conditions. The crowd was loud. It wasn’t perfect. It’s not gonna be very often, but I’m really proud of the fact that it wasn’t perfect and I still got a huge win. It’s exciting.”
Jones’ exciting victory gave the Tar Heels only their second point of the night and sealed the 5-2 defeat.
For Jones, the moment was one of mixed emotions. She had just completed her second victory of the night — winning in both doubles and singles — but her team had just suffered a devastating loss.
“It’s really tough,” Jones said. “Even on match point, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I just won’ but everybody is still sad. It’s really strange, the game of tennis, but we all know what it's like and we’re all happy for each other. I’m happy but also sad.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.