After a great showing at the Wolfpack Invitational, the North Carolina women's tennis team hopes to carry success over to the ITA All-American Championships, which began Oct. 1 at Cary Tennis Park.
Junior Fiona Crawley has dominated all her singles matches so far this season — she is undefeated at 7-0 and most recently won the A-1 Singles Championship at the Wolfpack Invitational. The Tar Heel has moved to 84-8 in her singles career, after beating four ranked players at last week's invitational, including USC's No.1 ranked Eryn Cayetano.
Aside from Crawley's dominance, several other Tar Heels are playing well early in the indoor season. Three additional Tar Heels secured wins in their singles matches last week, and the reigning ITA team indoor champions are now preparing for the main draw of the first major ITA event of the season.
Head coach Brian Kalbas said the Tar Heels are focused on identifying what aspects of their game can be improved, which in turn helps them prepare for the spring. The women’s ITA All-American Championship is another opportunity for the team to reflect and regroup after the Tar Heels' most recent invitationals.
“It's an opportunity for them to individually, maybe improve their games, improve their ranking, improve their confidence and improve their ability to demonstrate that,” Kalbas said.
Crawley said she has worked particularly on the mental side of the game — playing in the moment and not letting lost points stick in her mind. There's a running joke on the team that Crawley blacks out when she’s on court, which speaks to her focus during matches.
“I feel like I've really improved on trying to just stay present on every single point,” Crawley said. “Not walking out on court for the second match of the day, like ‘Oh, I'm kind of tired.’”
While they both shine as singles players, Crawley and senior Anika Yarlagadda are playing as doubles partners this season. The duo said they match energies when on court together.
“(Yarlagadda) doesn't know how to give up and that translates to doubles as well," Crawley said. "And I feel like we feed off of each other.”
Kalbas said their even-keel attitudes, solidity on the baseline and ability to manage their emotions seemed like a good fit, although the team's doubles pairs are still a work in progress.
The pair said they are excited to play together as long as possible, but the upcoming tournament puts everyone back in a team environment, where everyone has a chance to show their improvements.
“I'm really excited for All-Americans because a lot of us are either in (qualifiers or pre-qualifiers), and a lot of us will get an opportunity to play,” Yarlagadda said.
The ITA All-American Championship will be played through Oct. 9.
Qualifying draw results
The Tar Heels are sending five players to the main draw of the championship.
Graduate student Abbey Forbes, a transfer from UCLA, and Yarlagadda survived the qualifying singles draw on Monday and Tuesday to advance. On Wednesday, Forbes will face off against Texas A&M's Carson Branstine at 9 a.m. and Yarlagadda will play Mississippi State's Emmanuela Antonaki at 11:30 a.m.
Crawley, sophomore Carson Tanguilig and senior Elizabeth Scotty will play their respective matches at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
The doubles pair of Forbes and Scotty will face off against Ohio State's team at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Junior Reilly Tran defeated Harvard's Maxi Duncan and UCF's Marie Mattel before falling to Southern California's Snow Han on Tuesday, failing to make it out of the qualifiers.
The doubles team of Yarlagadda and Crawley dropped its match to Florida on Monday, failing to make it out of the qualifying round.
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