It hasn’t always been easy. Aney, after her first two years of dominating on Court 3 for the Tar Heels, now regularly plays on Court 6.
Ouellet-Pizer, similarly, had her own set of frustrations to work through earlier this year, after falling out of the team’s top six. Midway through the season, Kalbas noticed that his team’s captain stopped coming in for extra practice reps throughout the week.
“She was just kind of resigned to the fact that, ‘You know what, I’ve had a good career. I’m not going to be necessarily needed,’” Kalbas said. “And I told her, ‘Look, I know how good you can be, and I know how much you mean to this team. I need you to not be resigned that your season, that your career, is over because this team needs you.'
“And I’m telling you right now, she’s embraced it.”
North Carolina (24-1, 12-0 ACC) started its final home match like it has all season: On Court 3, Ouellet-Pizer and junior Makenna Jones earned a 6-1 win, and then, minutes later, Aney and Alexa Graham clinched the doubles point on Court 1, winning 6-3.
With the win, North Carolina hasn’t dropped a doubles point all year.
And when the time came for singles, UNC didn’t take its foot off the gas.
On Court 4, first-year Cameron Morra won the team’s first singles point, 6-1, 6-0. Ouellet-Pizer earned the team’s second singles point from Court 6, winning 6-2, 6-2.
“All my teammates have just been so supportive, like today, and also just like the whole year, the whole season,” Ouellet-Pizer said after her win. “For me, it's not really sad. It's just really nice to know that everyone appreciates me, and it was really fun.”
Graham clinched the match with a 6-1, 7-5 win on Court 2, so by the time Aney walked off the court, her 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 win on Court 5 felt like a formality.
It felt as if — in a four-year span when she's chosen to be selfless — the moment belonged to her.
Kalbas threw his arms up and gave her a hug before she could shake the hand of the official on her court.
“He was just like, ‘I’m so proud of you,’” Aney recalled. “His support throughout my four years just means so much to me, and so, honestly, hearing him say that he’s proud of me is just really special to me.”
Right behind Kalbas was the rest of Aney’s teammates, waiting to give her hugs themselves. She embraced every single one of them, including Kalbas a second time.
Even after all the matches on Sunday were played, the feeling of finality seemed to linger. The scoreboard lights were turned off; the facility’s bleachers were cleared; the seniors’ families were talking just outside where their daughters had won another game at the courts they’ve called home the past four years.
And yet, the day didn't seem over.
Kalbas and assistant coach Tyler Thomson talked to each other after the emotional day. Somehow, like they do every year, they have to figure out how to hold off the inevitable end to two decorated Tar Heel careers.
Kalbas has a conversation like this every year, sure.
But it never gets any easier.
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