The No. 17 North Carolina men’s tennis team (2-0) defended home court with a 4-0 win over the Northwestern Wildcats (4-2) at the ITA Kickoff on Saturday afternoon.
The Tar Heels began the weekend in dominant fashion when seniors Brian Cernoch and Mac Kiger won their doubles match, 6-2. The following match featured the Tar Heels’ highest ranked doubles pair: No. 20 Casey Kania and Logan Zapp.
The young duo, just a first-year and sophomore, respectively, faced off against Steven Forman and Felix Nordby of Northwestern. Despite the Wildcats winning two games, Kania and Zapp proved to be too much, winning 6-2. This win concluded the doubles matches and earned the Tar Heels their first team point.
After UNC won the doubles point with a 2-0 sweep, the teams proceeded to the singles matches.
The opening singles match saw UNC senior Henry Lieberman square off against Nordby. Lieberman’s experience played a huge role in his match win, guiding him to two dominant set wins and increasing the team lead to 2-0.
Coming into the match, Northwestern boasted two ranked players in the singles division, including No. 104 Simen Bratholm.
Bratholm matched up against North Carolina’s Benjamin Sigouin, a senior who three years ago was named an ITA All-American. Despite Bratholm’s superior ranking, Sigouin provided a flash from the past, winning the match two sets to none. The upset win extended the lead to 3-0.
Kiger faced off against Northwestern’s other ranked singles player, No. 92 Trice Pickens. Kiger’s success has largely been seen in doubles event, where in 2019 he finished the season ranked fourth nationally.
After a hard-fought first set, Kiger put away the top-ranked Wildcat in the second set, winning 6-3. The second upset win of the day for the Tar Heels made the team score 4-0 and sealed the win.
Who stood out?
Both doubles pairs for North Carolina had strong outings to help kickstart the Tar Heel effort. The young duo of Kania and Zapp validated their top 20 status with an impressive over the Wildcats. The strong showing from North Carolina’s young core helped seal the first point of the day.
In the singles event, Sigouin and Kiger engineered impressive upset wins. Sigouin provided a refreshing performance, as the 2019 ITA All-American showed resilience in the second set winning 7-6.
Kiger also showcased the same resilience in his opening set victory over Northwestern’s Pickens, a Cary native. Pickens’ homecoming was spoiled when Kiger laid the knockout blow in the second set winning his match 2-0.
When was it decided?
Kiger’s win awarded UNC their fourth point of the day and sealed the win for the Tar Heels. Following the end of his match, all other ongoing matches were called a no contest, as the 4-0 lead was insurmountable for Northwestern.
Why does it matter?
The win over Northwestern improves the Tar Heels’ record to 2-0 and advances them to the championship match of the ITA Kickoff. Awaiting UNC are the fifth ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The winner of this match advances to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, a title the Tar Heels won last year.
When do they play next?
With the win, the Tar Heels advanced to the championship game against the top ranked team of the event, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes. The match begins at 3 p.m. Sunday at Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center indoor courts.
@dthsports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.