With gutsy performances from junior Brian Cernoch and first-year Logan Zapp, the No. 4 North Carolina men's tennis team (19-2, 9-2 ACC) won a close match against No. 35 Virginia Tech (12-9, 6-6 ACC), 4-2, to advance to the ACC Tournament semifinals.
UNC started off strong in doubles to secure the first point of the match, winning two out of three doubles matches. Senior Benjamin Sigouin and sophomore Rinky Hijikata comfortably won their match at court two doubles, 6-1. But it was the court three doubles match that would be the deciding factor for who would take the early 1-0 lead.
Cernoch and first-year Peter Murphy started out in an early hole and went down 0-3, but made an huge comeback, winning six straight games to win 6-3 and secure the doubles point for the Tar Heels.
In singles, Cernoch continued his superb play, beating his opponent in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4, but Virginia Tech won some singles matches of their own to make the score 2-2.
Senior Josh Peck would break the tie to give North Carolina the 3-2 advantage, winning 6-2, 5-7, 6-1. Only needing one more point to seal the deal, Zapp stepped up big for UNC, winning a tough match 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, giving the Tar Heels a big win in the ACC quarterfinals, 4-2.
Who stood out?
Cernoch played a huge part in the Tar Heels victory, leading the charge in his doubles comeback to win the crucial doubles point, as well as getting UNC on the board early in singles with his straight sets victory.
Zapp was also fantastic in his match, clinching the dual-match by winning his three-set thriller. After winning his first set, Zapp was on the ropes, going down 3-4 in the third set, and it seemed like momentum was swinging the Hokies' way. But Zapp flipped all of that on its head, winning the final three games to win the set 6-4 and sending the Tar Heels to the semifinals.
When was it decided?
Cernoch and Murphy’s doubles win was a huge momentum swing in favor of the Tar Heels. When it seemed like Virginia Tech had the doubles point in the bag, Cernoch and Murphy won six games in a row to steal the point from the Hokies, giving UNC a lot of confidence heading into singles play.
The match was ultimately decided when Zapp won his match to give UNC the 4-2 victory, but Peck’s three-set win was just as big for UNC. Just like Zapp, Peck lost his second set 5-7, but he kept fighting and fired back with a convincing 6-1 win in the third set, breaking a 2-2 tie and putting Zapp in the position to win the clincher.
Why does it matter?
With this win, UNC advances to the ACC semifinals to play No. 9 Wake Forest, a rematch of the semifinals matchup from two years ago. Wake Forest pulled out their close win in this round, 4-3, so the Tar Heels will be looking for some redemption this time around to advance to the ACC Championship game where they will play either Virginia or North Carolina State.
UNC is on the hunt for its first ACC Tournament victory since 2002 and first finals appearance since 2018.
When do they play next?
UNC and Wake Forest square off on Saturday, April 24 at 2 p.m at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College in Rome, Ga.
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