The UNC men’s tennis team (18-8, 9-3 ACC) began its NCAA tournament run this weekend by defeating Navy, 4-1, in the first round. The Tar Heels then secured a spot in the Sweet 16 after a 4-1 win against Arizona. This will be the eight consecutive Sweet 16 for the Tar Heels.
After dropping the doubles point early on against Navy with only one match win from Casey Kania and Logan Zapp, the Tar Heels showed an impressive rebound and won nearly all of the singles matches, with a breaking-serve clinch point by Zapp winning the final game of the night. Zapp hit a deep shot from behind the baseline to stop up play in the final match.
Singles play showed a prowess the Tar Heels lacked in the doubles matches, with Benjamin Sigouin taking a quick straight-set win over the Midshipmen’s Gavin Segraves for an early 1-0 lead. Before Zapp took home the final point, Peter Murphy and Mac Kiger secured a 3-1 lead over the Midshipmen to ensure a first-round victory.
Play against Arizona fared similarly for the Tar Heels. By securing the doubles point by wins from the Sigouin/Murphy and Kania/Zapp duos, UNC started singles play with wins against Arizona’s Gustaf Strom, settling the score at 2-0. While the Wildcats aimed to level off the score after a win against Zapp, they ultimately lost 4-1 after Brian Cernoch beat Jonas Ziverts, 7-6, 6-4 in match play before Murphy secured the clinch point.
While Kiger held a 40-40 match point for his 4-1 victory in the third match, Murphy took wins in his first sets on breakers, before clinching UNC’s eighth-straight Sweet 16 appearance by a score of 7-6, 6-4.
Who stood out?
Murphy established himself as a key player on the court after taking both clinch points to secure the Tar Heel’s spot in the Sweet 16. He played consistently from backcourt in all of his matches. The win in doubles against Arizona and his singles victory was influential in Carolina’s ability to progress forward in the NCAA Tournament.
Kiger’s spring season continues to be successful—after winning the doubles title in fall 2021 at the Duke James Bonk Invite, he finishes off his spring season with his 100th career win in his Navy singles matchup.
When was it decided?
By the time the Tar Heels had clinched the doubles point against Arizona, you could tell morale was running high. Due to unaccounted thunderstorms, play was moved to indoor courts. With such an important matchup held on indoor courts, the Tar Heel’s showing was nothing short of impressive, especially in spite of the unprecedented change in environment. Quick wins on the singles courts built a 4-1 lead over Arizona, and singles wins across the board established a lead against Navy. These leads put the Tar Heels in a great position for play against tougher competitors in later rounds.
Why does it matter?
Going into the tournament, the Tar Heels were ranked amongst the top 20 of Division I teams, but not considered a top competitor. The win against Arizona, consistently ranked No. 16 throughout the regular season, solidifies UNC’s position as one of the best teams in the country.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will play the No. 2 Florida Gators in the NCAA Super Regionals this weekend, starting play on Friday, May 13 in Gainesville, Fla.