In a prelude to the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, the No. 1 UNC women’s tennis dominated the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks in its dual-match opener on Tuesday, after starting the season strong against No. 8 NC State and No. 10 UVA in the Tar Heel Invitational last weekend.
This was the dual-match season opener for both teams, with the Tar Heels not having participated in dual-match play since the 2020 season ended prematurely last March. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the remainder of the Tar Heels' dual-match schedule cancelled, as well as the ACC and NCAA Championships. These cancellations were disappointing for a UNC team that hadn't dropped a dual-match all season and didn't look to be anywhere near doing so. The Seahawks, by comparison, had a 4-7 record in the 2020 season.
The Tar Heels were beyond victorious in their demolition of the Seahawks, not dropping so much as a set during the 7-0 victory. In fact, no doubles team or singles player dropped more than a single game to UNCW, save for the doubles team of seniors Sara Daavettila and Alexa Graham, who beat their opponents 6-2. When it was all said and done, UNC's swift and crushing victory will help prepare them for the tough competition visiting the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center this coming weekend.
Who stood out?
The Tar Heels had many strong contributors on Tuesday, with Daavettila getting her 128th college career singles win in today’s matchup with a 6-1, 6-1 defeat of UNCW's Charlotte Madison. This win puts Daavettila in fourth place in program history, with a full season left to play to further advance her place.
Reaching that might be hard, though, considering that Graham sits in third place on that list, with her 6-0, 6-1 drubbing of UNCW's Celeste Matute marking her 131st victory. By the end of this season, both Graham and Daavettila will likely be among the top-three Tar Heels for all-time singles wins.
Promising freshman Fiona Crawley also played well, improving her record to 3-0 for the Tar Heels by defeating the Seahawks' Anna Daniels, 6-1, 6-0. But the most crushing victory came by way of sophomore Elizabeth Scotty, who was the first to finish her singles match after sweeping her opponents in both sets: 6-0, 6-0.
When was it decided?
It was clear from the opening doubles games to the last singles finish that UNC was dominating this thing. In the first doubles match to come to a close, Scotty and junior Cameron Morra beat Madison and Matute, 6-1. From there, the result was never in doubt.
Though UNC rarely missed a step in any of its matches, everything only came to a close when sophomore Anika Yarlagadda finished her 6-0, 6-1 victory, securing the 7-0 win.
Why does it matter?
This competition opened the dual-match season for the Tar Heels, setting the precedent for the rest of the season to come. The team didn’t miss a beat in its season opener, not losing a single set while defending its No. 1 overall ranking. UNC will need all the boldness and confidence from this competition for this coming weekend when Old Dominion, Ole Miss and Notre Dame come to town.
When do they play again?
The Tar Heels will play again on Friday, Jan. 22 at 2 p.m. against Notre Dame to kick off the aptly-named ITA Kick-Off Weekend, which will be hosted at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.
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