“Yesterday was the first day we practiced since we came back from (the indoor championships),” Kalbas said after Tuesday’s matches. “It’s just good to get back on the horse and get those competitive juices flowing again.”
But the loss from a week ago still weighs heavier than any pair of wins does.
To start the tournament, the No. 2 Tar Heels combed through some of the toughest competition in the country with poise. They beat a gritty Oklahoma State team and followed it up with a win over UCLA — a squad that head coach Brian Kalbas said had “our number.”
But the final — a match the Tar Heels have found themselves in for five straight seasons — was a different story. After inconsistent starts from players that have been solid all season, it all came to a head with Jones on the last court. She was up 5-2 in the third set when her opponent called for an injury timeout.
She’d been here before.
Last season, against Vanderbilt, Jones was up 5-2 in the third set when her opponent called for a medical timeout. She lost that one, too.
“It was a long delay, and I think for Makenna, it was something to learn from,” Kalbas said. “Last year, when it happened, it turned her season around and she didn’t lose a dual match the rest of the year. So I’m excited to see how we respond as a team.”
Team captain and senior Chloe Ouellet-Pizer said she was happy about her team's attitude after the loss and her team’s meeting.
“Obviously we wish we had won, but moving forward, the team looks really good,” Ouellet-Pizer said. “I know we can learn from the loss.”
And on Tuesday, they began the process of moving on.
Falling backward, positioning herself for a backhand lob that would cap off an unblemished day for the North Carolina women’s tennis team, first-year Sophia Patel doesn’t remember how she won her last point.
She saw it happen: the deep slice pinning her on the baseline, her opponent approaching the net, her lob soaring over her opponent to win the first match of her young Tar Heel career. But she can’t tell you how she did it.
“I don’t know how I did that,” Patel said. “I knew she was going to go hard again, so I decided to hit a drop-shot, and I kind of got lucky.”
For the team’s match-clinching shot against Appalachian State on Tuesday, Patel had to rely on instinct.
She had to “play it simple,” she said, trusting the same process that got her in the position to win in the first place.
And maybe that's what her team should do, too.
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org