The No. 23 Notre Dame men's tennis team entered Chapel Hill with a 14-7 record on Sunday to face a Tar Heel team coming off two conference wins and standing at No. 24 in the country.
The match promised to be a close one given the team’s close rankings and similar records—11-6 for the Tar Heels—but it became anything but that. The Fighting Irish were routed 4-0 and never appeared in control of the match.
The match started with doubles play and the Tar Heels took immediate control with the pair of Benjamin Sigouin and Peter Murphy winning their match on line three doubles by a score of 6-2. They were followed soon after by their teammates on line two doubles, Logan Zapp and Casey Kania who won 6-4.
By winning the two of the three doubles matches of the day, the Tar Heels secured one point before play moved on to singles.
The team picked up where it left off with Brian Cernoch on line one winning 6-2, 6-3 and Mac Kiger winning 7-5, 6-1. The Tar Heels now led the match 3-0 and needed to win just one more court to win the match. Murphy on line six was happy to oblige with a 6-4, 6-4 victory that gave the Tar Heels their fourth point of the day and the match victory.
In what was perhaps a signal of the Tar Heels dominance, the remaining three courts that were unfinished were all winnable by the Tar Heels as well.
Who stood out?
Murphy was one of the standouts on the team contributing to the team’s final score as both a singles and doubles player. The performance of Zapp and Kania cannot be overlooked though as they were able to win their close match and set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Cernoch also had an exemplary performance, beating the opposing team’s best player in decisive fashion and continuing the Tar Heels momentum from doubles. Though his court did not finish, Anuj Watane should be credited for his resilience today. Having lost his first set, he came roaring back to win the second set 6-0 and appeared to be ready to take control of the third set before play was stopped.
When was it decided?
The matchup was largely over after Murphy’s victory. Though Notre Dame was down 2-0 up to that point, they had shown drive and the ability to fight back with close matches everywhere.
Murphy’s win was able to put UNC decisively in the driver’s seat and took the wind out of the Fighting Irish’s sails. If Murphy had lost such a close game, it is possible Notre Dame could have used it as a springboard to mount a comeback.
Why does it matter?
As No. 24 in the country, UNC will not have many opportunities to play a higher ranked team this year and they took full advantage of it. The win pushes them to a tie for third place in the ACC with an opportunity to pick up another key win in a few weeks against Wake Forest.
This victory was also the Tar Heels’ third in a row and they are beginning to hit their stride in the final stretch of conference play before the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will play next against Clemson on Friday April 1st at 4:30 in Chapel Hill.
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