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The Daily Tar Heel

Sophia Patel shines in UNC women's tennis team's shutouts against ECU, UNCC

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Sophomore Sophia Patel returns the ball in a singles match against NC State at the 2019 Kitty Harrison Invitational hosted by UNC at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. 8 teams competed in the multi-day tournament, and UNC

Sophia Patel’s shouts echoed through the quiet Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center as she yelled to her teammates on other courts. Teammates Elizabeth Scotty and Alle Sanford waited in anticipation as Kacie Harvey and Patel raced to win their matches to seal the North Carolina victory.

Finally, the sophomore Patel finished off ECU's Ho Chiao Hsia in a 6-4, 6-2 win.

"Point," Patel exclaimed. 

Her teammates erupted in cheers, celebrating the Tar Heels' 4-0 sweep over ECU on Saturday morning. UNC went on to shut out UNCC to complete the doubleheader, securing both victories to remain a perfect 12-0 in 2019-20.

Other than the odd dropped set, the team was perfect with a pair of 4-0 wins. The Tar Heels won both doubles points and six straight singles matches from Patel, Elizabeth Scotty, Alexa Graham, Sara Daavettila and Alle Sanford.

The full UNC tennis family was on display Saturday, with nine different athletes competing in singles play. The depth of the UNC women's tennis team is one of the group's biggest assets and head coach Brian Kalbas used Saturday's matches to showcase players that don't always see action.

"Kacie and Anika and Sophia got in, and it was great for them because we have a lot of depth, and we have great players down the line," Kalbas said. "We need to use these matches as opportunities for everybody to get match ready."

Patel, a sophomore, was one of those players who doesn't always see match play. But she recorded victories in doubles and singles play on Saturday and was leading in her other two unfinished matches. Sanford, who clinched two singles wins of her own, smiled happily as she talked about playing doubles with Patel.

"It was fun for me getting to play with Soph, who I haven't gotten to play with before," Sanford said. "And have a great doubles match and get a win and smile."

The smiles and chemistry weren't exclusive to doubles matches. The Tar Heels could be heard yelling across courts, cheering each other on and encouraging the squad to seize the two victories in spite of challenges.

"College tennis is a special thing," Kalbas said. "Where it's an individual sport but you're playing alongside your teammates, and you can make an impact in your energy and your effort and your attitude."

In addition to two victories on Saturday, the Tar Heel seniors also unveiled the 2020 ITA Indoor championship banner.

There's no denying that chemistry and fan support have been, and will continue to be, central to this team's success, as the group looks to continue its perfection into ACC play.

Even when players lost points, they cheered on scores by their teammates, always communicating, always smiling, and happy to be together at home again after a trip to Chicago where the team won its fourth ITA Indoor National Team Championship. But the players weren't the only supporters at the match, as fans also played a critical role in uplifting players.

Family has a different meaning at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. When they're not playing, players walk around the upper-level talking to giddy kids and old regulars alike. Kacie Harvey took the time to braid a young fan's hair just like hers. Cross-court encouragements between players cut through the silence, and fans loudly cheer for every player by name after points.  

"I think this year especially we've gotten really close with our fan base," Patel said. "And I think it really helps each and every one of us on the court."

@MaryMacPorter1

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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