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The Daily Tar Heel

High energy and diligence helped UNC men’s tennis win tournament

UNC Junior Benjamin Sigouin prepares to return the ball to Georgia State Roberts Grinvalds in the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. The Tar Heels won 4-0.

Tennis matches are usually known for a silent atmosphere, but UNC's latest match was far from quiet. The Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center was booming on Sunday afternoon. 

Fans cheered, clapped and shouted as the UNC men’s tennis team dominated for the second day in a row, this time beating out Georgia State 4-0 in the ITA Kickoff Weekend after beating Elon in the same fashion the previous day. The win earned UNC a spot in the ITA National Indoor Championship in Wisconsin. 

With the zeal of the crowd translating onto the court, UNC was able to shut out its opponent, but it was not without difficulty. From the start of the match, the Panthers brought high energy that forced the six players competing in doubles to perform at their best.

“This is kind of like an NCAA Tournament for the indoors, so we were ready to go and we wanted to defend our home court,” senior William Blumberg said. “To their credit, they smacked us in the face with their energy in the beginning, so it was almost like a wakeup call. I thought we did a good job of answering the challenge.”

Despite early challenges, the Tar Heels were able to get a victory from first-year Rinky Hijikata and junior Benjamin Sigouin, 6-2. Then, a 6-3 win from junior Mac Kiger and senior Simon Soendergaard secured the point.

“I feel like doubles point was very intense,” Kiger said. “They brought a lot of energy and were screaming, but I thought me and Simon being able to clinch it was very big for the team, and it carried on into singles.”

The passionate cheers from friends and family in the stands did not lessen during the intermission. The Tar Heels went full-throttle into the singles round, spurred by the energy brought by their opponents and the crowd.

Kiger also spearheaded the singles match for UNC by clinching the first win, 6-3, 6-0. Sigouin fought hard against GSU’s Roberts Grinvalds to notch a 6-4, 6-1 win to give UNC a 3-0 lead. One more point was all that the Tar Heels needed to blank the Panthers.

Josh Peck was the key. With the senior's 6-1, 6-3 win, the team can now pack its bags for Madison and prepare for the opportunity to win a title. 

“It’s good for the team, especially when we’re up three to nothing and we need one more match to finish it,” Peck said. “It’s always a race between teammates, so that’s kind of fun to battle it out to see who can clinch the match win.”

Though early in the season, the team is beginning to find their groove and prove they deserve their national ranking of fourth overall. The team is finding its footing with a new addition — Hijikata had his debut this past weekend — and head coach Sam Paul is grateful for the way the season has started.

“I'm happy for our guys,” Paul said. “To get the doubles point and a lot of momentum against a good team was a good start. We'll learn a lot from this match and carry it on with us, but I'm very pleased to be moving on."


@DTHSports |

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