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Continued success in doubles powers UNC women's tennis to win over UVA

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UNC senior Makenna Jones returns the ball against her opponent on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020 at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. Jones won her set against Virginia. UNC defeated Virginia 6-1.

It's been 288 days since the North Carolina women's tennis team has lost a match. It's also been 288 days since the Tar Heels dropped a doubles point.

On Friday, though, the second streak, at least, was threatened.

In an eventual 6-1 victory for UNC, junior Alle Sanford and senior Makenna Jones had to battle against Virginia's Natasha Subhash and Sofia Munera to clinch the match that would keep UNC's doubles point streak alive.

The duo fought through the cold of the first outdoor home match of the year and erased a deficit to secure a 6-4 victory on Court Two, allowing UNC to breeze to a win.

The doubles point may seem insignificant — just one small point for two doubles wins — but it's a momentum builder and security blanket for the Tar Heels, some of whom have never played in a match without that initial 1-0 lead.

"I think it adds momentum," head coach Brian Kalbas said.  "For us, we're pretty strong in singles, so I think if we win the doubles point, we feel very confident going into singles. So I don't know what's going to happen if we don't. We'll see how it works out."

The Tar Heels started slow on Friday, playing in chilly 51-degree weather, just one degree higher than the cutoff that would have forced the match indoors. Virginia was given a choice to have the match inside. But, they elected to keep the match outside, unwilling to play the Tar Heels, the best team in indoor tennis, in their element. 

"I think just starting the match, especially in doubles, was a little bit slow, so just trying to focus on moving the feet, having a lot of energy," Sanford said. "As I started playing, I started to think less and less about it and just tried to focus on the tennis and my opponent and things I could control."

Sanford and Jones have played a lot of doubles matches together this season — 11, to be exact. In all those matches, they've learned to rely on each other, even when one of them starts out slow,  counting on one another to secure that crucial doubles point for the Tar Heels.

"I think that you can win without chemistry, but it's a lot more fun when you have that," Jones said. "And we've definitely developed a great relationship, off the court of course, but on the court as well, and I think that helps us when things get tough, we know we've got each other's back."

Despite their success in doubles matches so far this season, the Tar Heels know that there may come a day when that security blanket gets ripped off and they have to start the match down one to nothing. They are trying to prepare for that moment and the added pressure that will come with it.

"We've talked about it with our sports psychologist a little bit," Jones said. "Because that could come at some point, and it's kind of understanding that we need to be able to handle that not going our way."

Kalbas isn't as concerned -- he knows that there are no guaranteed wins in tennis. After all, a tennis match has seven points up for grabs, the doubles point just happens to be the first.

"You could say that because we haven't lost a doubles point, it's very important," Kalbas said. "But still, it's only one point, there's still six more points available."

@MaryMacPorter1

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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