The No. 8 North Carolina men’s tennis team (5-1) edged out a 4-3 win over No. 14 Illinois (3-1) at Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana, Ill., on Saturday.
The Tar Heels jumped to a 1-0 lead by clinching the doubles matchups, with wins behind partners Blaine Boyden and William Blumberg, and teammates Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard.
Illinois evened the score at 1-1 after the first singles match finished, when Illinois’ Keenan Mayo defeated UNC’s Brian Cernoch, 6-4, 6-2 on Court 4. After that, on Court 5, Caleb Chakravarthi earned a pair of 6-3 victories over Soendergaard, giving the Illini another point. In order to win at that point, UNC had to win three out of the next four matches.
After that, North Carolina fought back with two straight victories, taking a 3-2 lead. Junior Josh Peck won 6-3, 6-4 on Court 3 and Boyden triumphed 6-4, 7-5 on Court 6 to put the Tar Heels ahead.
Illinois tied the score at 3-3 when Blumberg lost on Court 1 after three sets: 6-4, 2-6, 3-6 to Illinois’ top player, No. 24 Aleks Kovacevic.
The match came down to the last ongoing singles match on Court 2 between UNC’s Benjamin Sigouin and Illinois’ Alex Brown. When Brown could not return on match point, Sigouin, whose teammates were watching on an adjacent court, dropped his racket and fell onto the court, soon finding himself at the bottom of a dogpile. He won a close match, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.
Who stood out?
While North Carolina relied on their depth to eke out a win over Illinois, Sigouin ultimately secured the narrow victory for the Tar Heels.
Blumberg, one of the top players for the Tar Heels, recorded his first loss of the season. Blumberg is the reigning ACC Player of the Year and was named All-America in singles and doubles in his first two seasons. He also won the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player from his rookie year.
When was it decided?
The match came down to the wire with the team's tied at three. Sigouin clinched the team victory after three highly competitive sets, marking his first victory against a ranked player this season.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels bounce back after their first loss to an undefeated Texas team. They have demonstrated their depth and resilience against a highly ranked team in Illinois.
The win bodes well for the Tar Heels as they return to Illinois next weekend for a four-day tournament.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will play at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships from Feb. 15-Feb. 18 in Chicago. The tournament will feature eight of the top-10 teams in the country.
After that, the Tar Heels return home to face Duke on Feb. 28.
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