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Thursday January 20th

UNC women's tennis, crowned No. 1 in the country, crushes N.C. State, 5-2

Junior Sara Daavettila wins the final singles point for the UNC women's tennis team against Virginia Commonwealth University on Jan. 26, 2019.
Buy Photos Junior Sara Daavettila wins the final singles point for the UNC women's tennis team against Virginia Commonwealth University on Jan. 26, 2019.

On a cold and dreary Wednesday afternoon in Raleigh, the newly first-ranked North Carolina women’s tennis team shined brightly, taking down No. 11 N.C. State, 5-2.

What happened?

Hot off of four straight victories, UNC (14-1, 2-0) traveled to the home of the Wolfpack (10-3, 2-1) where the team looked to defend its new No. 1 ranking.  The Tar Heels did not disappoint, showing once again they are a force to be reckoned with.

UNC clinched the doubles point, with the No. 16 pair of junior Alexa Graham and senior Jessie Aney finishing first, defeating their opponents 6-3.  The fourth-ranked pair of first-year Cameron Morra and junior Makenna Jones quickly followed suit, winning 6-4. The combined efforts of these duos gave the Tar Heels an early 1-0 lead going into singles play, and brought UNC’s doubles record to an impeccable 15-0 on the season.

Morra, ranked 27th nationally, was first to finish her singles match, winning back-to-back sets 6-0, 6-4.  Fifth-ranked Graham stepped off the court next, coming out on top after a grueling second set. She took down her opponent 6-2, 7-6.  

The next Tar Heel to finish her singles match was junior Sara Daavettila. After losing her first set of the day 2-6, No. 6 Daavettila fought back and outlasted her opponent, winning the next two sets 6-2, 6-2.  

Jones, second-ranked nationally, made the second comeback of the day.  Following her 7-6 loss in the first set to No. 25 Anna Rogers, she snatched the match from her opponent in the second two sets, 6-3, 6-4, piling on another win for North Carolina.  These four singles triumphs gave UNC a commanding 5-0 lead over N.C. State.

The Wolfpack put themselves on the board in the last two singles matches of the day, defeating Aney and senior Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, bringing the final score to 5-2 in favor of North Carolina.

Who stood out?

Graham, Morra, and Jones all secured wins in both singles and doubles and were instrumental in defeating N.C. State.  

“It was really neat to see those guys step up and play with real purpose,” head coach Brian Kalbas said.  He also pointed out that Graham and Morra have dominated in the ACC awards, with Graham winning Player of the Week for three straight weeks and Morra winning multiple Freshman of the Week honors.

“We knew that we had to be very, very competitive throughout the match and come out with tremendous energy and positive spirit, and we did that,” Kalbas said.

When was it decided?

North Carolina left no doubt against N.C. State. UNC was consistent in its play through the duration of the match, jumping on the Wolfpack with the doubles point in the beginning and then taking four singles matches in a row.  

The Tar Heels made another victory against a top-notch team look easy.

Why does it matter?

As the No. 1 ranked team, UNC had much to prove in this match.  Both teams had four-game win streaks, and while the Tar Heels extended theirs to five, they snapped the Wolfpack’s, also delivering N.C. State its first loss of the season at home.

The Tar Heels never faltered against N.C. State, maintaining their perfect away record of 4-0, showing they are comfortable and worthy of being in the number one spot, and giving them a vote of confidence going into their next match. 

When do they play next?

UNC returns home to the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Friday, facing an 8-3 Notre Dame team at 3 p.m.  

“The opportunity to play against a really competitive Notre Dame team is going to be a great challenge for us,” Kalbas said. 

@_SamHopper

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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