The North Carolina women’s tennis team has rarely lost over the last few years, and when it has, it usually means the end of the Tar Heels' season.
Friday night, though, for the first time since April 20, 2018 — nearly four years ago — the No. 1 Tar Heels lost a regular season dual match, falling 5-2 in front of a packed Ambler Tennis Stadium at No. 9 Duke.
The Blue Devils won that match four years ago, when every current Tar Heel was still in high school.
Duke simply outplayed UNC to win four of the first five points and clinch the match this time around.
“I’m just proud of our team more than anything else,” head coach Brian Kalbas said. “We haven’t lost a regular season match since 2018 here, with that duration of time against unbelievable competition. Duke played well and deserved to win.”
North Carolina’s nationally top-ranked doubles duo of sophomore Fiona Crawley and junior Elizabeth Scotty once again won in dominant fashion, taking down Duke’s No. 38 duo of Karolina Berankova and Georgia Drummy, 6-2.
UNC ended up losing the point, however, as seniors Cameron Morra and Alle Sanford, ranked No. 26, lost 6-3 to Duke’s No. 55 pair of Chloe Beck and Ellie Coleman, and North Carolina’s Reilly Tran and Carson Tanguilig also lost 6-3 to Eliza Omirou and Margaryta Bilokin.
“They’re playing with good energy and assertiveness and they’re on a good path right now," Kalbas said. "Hopefully they can keep it going.”
In singles matches, No. 45 Crawley brought her undefeated record into Friday night but lost 6-4, 6-3 to Duke’s Kelly Chen, who was celebrating her senior night. Crawley took a 4-0 lead in the first set before losing 12 of the next 15 games.
No. 4 Morra took on No. 9 Beck on court one, and Beck dominated the first set to win, 6-1. Morra rolled her ankle on the final point of the seventh game, and even though she played better tennis in the second set, Beck took that one, 6-4, to earn the victory.
“Duke’s a great team and today’s a tough one for sure, the first regular season loss for my class and anyone below me," Morra said. "But everyone fought as hard as they could. It sucks it ended this way, but I think we’re going to use it to be better moving forward.”
Scotty, ranked No. 17, took on No. 21 Drummy and fought through three grueling sets before Drummy won 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. North Carolina’s Anika Yarlagadda also lost, falling 7-5, 6-4 to Coleman.
On the plus side for the Tar Heels, their first-year, Tanguilig, played like a seasoned veteran in her first-ever matchup against Blue Devils. The Alpharetta, Ga. native lost her first set 6-4 but stormed back to win sets two and three, each 6-1, versus Bilokin.
“I was right in the match in the first set and I knew what I needed to do,” Tanguilig said. “Being loud for my teammates helps me stay loose and focused, and I’m excited to play them again and for what’s to come.”
The Tar Heels now move into postseason play and head to the ACC Championship in Rome, Ga., this weekend, where they may get another crack at their biggest rival en route to a sixth straight conference title.
“We’re far from being done,” Morra said.
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