When Makenna Jones and Cameron Morra stepped onto the court, they didn't expected they'd endure an hour-long battle against East Carolina’s Alisa Diercksen and Lisa Hofbauer.
Focused on the next point and not getting weighed down by past mistakes, No. 2 Jones and Morra defeated No. 49 Diercksen and Hofbauer 7-6 (3) in a tiebreaker to give the North Carolina women's tennis team its first point of the night in an eventual 7-0 sweep of the Pirates.
“(East Carolina) played extremely well; they were serving really well,” head coach Brian Kalbas said. “We just tried to weather the storm and just stay focused and play our game. Cam missed a couple volleys, but I told her, ‘Yeah, you got great volleys, you just gotta want the ball,’ and she came up with some big moves and volleys at the end.”
Morra and Jones were paired together in the fall and won the doubles title at the ITA Carolinas Regional, their first competition together.
“I just kinda threw them together,” Kalbas said. “I thought in my mind tactically that they could be a good team, and emotionally they’ve become a really good team. Their styles complement each other really well. Cam is so good from the baseline and Makenna’s so active at the net. They really do a great job of setting each other up. Makenna has a good shape to her ball and obviously Cam hits a flatter ball so I think the variety that they bring really frustrates a lot of opponents.”
Jones and Morra don't just share chemistry on the court; Jones has mentored Morra off the court as well. Jones has progressed from a first-year who didn’t always get playing time to ranking No. 2 in the nation for singles and doubles. Now, as one of the top players in the country, she wants to serve as a model for her teammate.
“I was a freshman at one point too, so I know how she’s feeling,” Jones said. “So I kinda try to just calm her down and just go by each point, and I think we just bond really well together.”
During tough matches, Morra looks to Jones for support.
“Makenna’s always so good at taking care of me,” Morra said. “She understands the pressures and always watches out for me, so it's always nice to be able to look over and know that it's gonna be okay and that we can do it."
Although the hour-long doubles match may have proved tiring to some, the duo considered it to help them in the singles matches that followed.
In a quick match, Morra defeated ECU’s Minette Van Vreden, 6-2, 6-0. Jones later defeated Hofbauer 6-4, 6-1, to close out singles competition with Morra cheering her on two courts down.
While Jones brings professionalism, Morra brings the energy.
“She’s just got a great personality,” Kalbas said. “She’s so all about the team. She’s just unselfish. Those characteristics make such a good teammate and obviously makes a great competitor for herself. She’s just a genuinely nice person and comes from a great family, so we couldn't be more excited to have her, and she’s just adjusted seamlessly into our team dynamic and culture.”
Morra is ranked No. 21 in the nation, and she credits her coaches and teammates for giving her the confidence she needs to perform against older and more experienced girls.
“I basically get all my support from my coaches and my teammates,” Morra said. “They’ve been so nice and helpful, and they all understand how difficult it is. I mean this team has been amazing for the past year, so I’m just lucky to be apart of it."
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