The No. 1 North Carolina women's tennis team opened its 2020-2021 campaign with some impressive play from its new first-years against No. 8 N.C. State on Friday and strong overall performances against No. 10 Virginia on Saturday in the UNC Invitational.
In Friday's matches against N.C. State, the Tar Heels won two of the three high-profile singles matchups that featured nationally-ranked players on both sides of the courts.
No. 49 Makenna Jones defeated No. 23 Alana Smith, 6-4, 6-3, and No. 120 Fiona Crawley upset No. 38 Adriana Reami, 6-4, 7-5. UNC's No. 79 Elizabeth Scotty fell to No. 35 Anna Rogers, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
In total, the Wolfpack won five of the nine singles matches and five of the eight doubles matches on Friday.
Against the Cavaliers on Saturday, the Tar Heels fared much better in singles play, winning four of the six matches. Jones, Crawley, Anika Yarlagadda and Reilly Tran all notched victories over nationally-ranked opponents, while Alle Sanford and Sophia Patel lost their matches.
In doubles play, North Carolina split the six matches against Virginia, with each team earning three wins.
Who stood out?
First-years Crawley and Tran had strong debuts for the Tar Heels against two of the other strongest programs in the country.
Crawley won her singles and doubles matches against both N.C. State and Virginia, and Tran came out on top in both of her singles matches over the weekend and her doubles match against the Cavaliers.
The near-perfect debuts of these two first-years is a positive sign for UNC fans that this program has a solid foundation to continue its trend of remaining at the front of the pack of the national rankings in the future.
When was it decided?
The trio of UNC, Virginia and N.C. State all impressed over the course of the weekend without a true winner of the weekend invitational being crowned.
Still, as a warm-up for the ITA Kickoff Weekend, the UNC Invitational was an opportunity for head coach Brian Kalbas and his staff to get a look at fresh faces and see how the Tar Heels are shaping up after an extended break away from the courts. For North Carolina to split most of its results against two other top-10 opponents is a sign that the Tar Heels remained sharp over the offseason and will be ready to compete for national titles this year.
Why does it matter?
Jones' victory over Smith on Friday was the graduate student's 100th career singles win as a Tar Heel. The milestone win for a veteran leader on the team against stiff competition in the Wolfpack is a testament to her contributions to the program.
The impressive debuts of Tran and Crawley are also encouraging signs for UNC fans that North Carolina shouldn't have reason to worry about falling out of contention in the national rankings anytime soon.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels have a home meet against UNC-Wilmington on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m. before the 2021 ITA Kickoff Weekend.
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