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Monday November 28th

No. 17 North Carolina men's tennis falls to No. 4 Ohio State 4-0 in ITA Kickoff

UNC junior Anuj Watane returns the ball with a backhand shot during the Tar Heels' 0-4 loss against Ohio State on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.
Buy Photos UNC junior Anuj Watane returns the ball with a backhand shot during the Tar Heels' 0-4 loss against Ohio State on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.

Despite having home court advantage, the No.17 North Carolina men’s tennis team were defeated by the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes, 4-0, Sunday in the ITA Kickoff championship. 

What happened?

The opening doubles match featured two high-powered duos with sophomore Logan Zapp and first-year Casey Kania of UNC battling the top-ranked doubles team in the country: graduate Matej Vocel and junior Robert Cash. Despite the Tar Heels winning one game, Vocel and Cash showcased their No. 1 ranking in dominant fashion, winning 6-1. 

The Tar Heels evened up the doubles scoring when senior pair Brain Cernoch and Mac Kiger upset No. 2 Justin Boulais and James Trotter. In the deciding doubles match, the Buckeyes came out on top in a back-and-forth battle opening up the team scoring at 1-0 in favor of Ohio State. 

Heading into the singles match, the Buckeyes boasted four ranked players, three more than UNC. 

The Buckeyes’ strong start continued when Vocel, the fifth ranked singles player, defeated senior Benjamin Sigouin in two sets, earning OSU their second team point of the afternoon. Vocel’s powerful serves helped him open up early leads in both sets en route to his match win.

Senior Henry Lieberman’s attempt to earn the Tar Heels their first point of the day came up short when Boulais defeated him in two sets. After a tight first set, ending in Boulais winning 6-4, the junior from Ontario defeated Leiberman handedly in the second set increasing the Buckeye lead to 3-0. 

After digging themselves into an early hole, the Tar Heels continued to struggle. 

Fresh off his upset defeat in the doubles matches, Trotter looked to bounce back and reclaim his top tier play. His 6-4 win in the second set against Zapp earned him the individual victory, and clinched the championship for OSU. 

Who stood out? 

Cernoch and Kiger’s upset win in their doubles match helped boost the Tar Heels in the early goings. Defeating the second ranked doubles team in the nation served as a beaming example for North Carolina that matches aren’t won solely by ranking. 

Kiger also shined in his singles match, where he faced sophomore JJ Tracy, the No. 14 ranked singles player nationally. Although his match was ruled a no contest - following Ohio State’s clinching point - the fifth-year senior was able to win the opening set 7-5. 

When was it decided?

After splitting the first two doubles matches, the Buckeye clinched the team point when junior Cannon Kingsley and Tracy won their match, 6-3. All eyes were on this deciding match, and the win for Ohio State provided them with the early momentum. 

Ohio State continued their dominance into the singles matches, winning all three matches in just two sets and clinching the team victory. Trotter bounced back from his early doubles upset and defeated Zapp to earn the Buckeye their match clinching point.

Why does it matter?

The loss eliminates the Tar Heels from defending their ITA National Team Indoor Championship and advances Ohio State to the ITA Championship bracket. This marks the first time since 2014 that North Carolina will not be a participant in the national tournament. 

UNC will look to build off this performance as they head into outdoor tennis play in the coming months.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels hit the road for their first road match of the season against the No. 25 Illinois Fighting Illini. The match is set for Feb. 5 and will begin at 6 p.m.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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