The energy in the locker room at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center in Chapel Hill was electric. As soon as the players shook hands, there was an immediate locker room celebration that consisted of cheering, high fives and smiles that reflected the No. 23 North Carolina men's tennis team's success against No. 13 South Carolina.
The Tar Heels defeated their rival in a 4-2 victory at home on Sunday and were led by senior Brian Cernoch, who stood above the rest due to his individual victory that clinched the team’s win.
Cernoch won his first doubles match with senior Mac Kiger, but it was his singles win over South Carolina's Toby Samuel that secured the victory for the Tar Heels.
Cernoch and Samuel faced off last March, and Samuel crushed his opponent 6-3, 6-1. It was a loss that Cernoch — who was second-team All-ACC honors and MVP of the ITA National Indoor Team Championship — did not see coming.
He approached this match against Samuel with a completely different method this season — and received a different result.
“Coming into this match, I was really trying to dial in on my game style and focusing on playing each point with a purpose and taking it one point at a time,” Cernoch said.
Cernoch was a contributing factor to his doubles team when he and Kiger won their match. Playing against South Carolina's No. 14 Daniel Rodrigues is always difficult, as he beat former Tar Heel William Blumberg last season.
UNC’s first doubles pair stayed confident and consistent throughout their tough match to beat Rodrigues and Connor Thomson 7-5.
The confidence that Cernoch played with reverberated throughout the Tar Heel team.