Graduate student Abbey Forbes raced to the net to launch a hard, fast overhead into an unreachable corner on her opponent’s side of the court.
When the ball hit its intended mark, she let out a yell bursting with excitement.
Forbes had dominated the first set 6-1, but Appalachian State’s senior Helena Jansen was putting up a fight for the second set. Jansen was leading 4-3 before the two switched sides.
The UNC graduate student then went on to win the next 3 games, and after that, she closed the second set and clinched a match victory.
On the other side of the wall, another UNC tennis player was deep into a second set in her singles match. Junior Reilly Tran had lost her first set 5-7, yet she was on her way to a comeback at the same time that Forbes was bringing in the team’s win.
Tran was the opposite of Forbes: silent, calm and narrowly focused on a comeback victory.
On the courts of Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center Saturday afternoon, the North Carolina women’s tennis team beat out Appalachian State 6-1. Despite what appears to be a sweeping victory, the team displayed resiliency, exemplified by the singles matches of Forbes and Tran.
“Their overall attitude was really positive, and I think their effort was really strong,” head coach Brian Kalbas said. “I gave them an ‘A’ in both categories.”
Attitude and effort is a big emphasis for the team, according to Forbes, and this stuck with her throughout the match. She said, by focusing on these two things, everything else falls into place.
“I just rely on my competitive spirit,” she said. “I’m a person who, when I’m playing matches, I never take anything for granted. I think that when I’m down, I always believe in myself.”
Saturday’s match was particularly special for Forbes, a transfer from UCLA, because it was her first time playing as the No. 1 singles player for UNC. The spot was occupied by junior Fiona Crawley on Friday, but Kalbas said, in order to keep everyone fresh, he wanted to make some line-up changes for the match.
It was also the first time Forbes’ brother Luke – who has been fighting leukemia for the past three years and was recently declared cancer-free – was able to watch one of her college tennis matches.
Because of this, Forbes said she was feeling nervous leading up to the match.
“Being on this team means the world to me,” she said. “Playing that number one spot in front of my family, especially my brother Luke, was just really special.”
Kalbas said the team is very fortunate to have Forbes on their side.
“If you watch her, her energy, her ferocity,” he said. “She plays every point the same, and it’s just tremendous leadership, toughness and gratitude.”
For Tran, Saturday’s match against the Mountaineers also held great significance, as it was her first match back since a significant injury in her left shoulder.
After falling in her first set, the Virginia native breezed through the second with a 6-0 victory to force a tie-breaking third set.
“(Reilly) was pressing,” Kalbas said. “It’s her first match, and she was a little nervous and trying to do too much. She started mixing up her shots better, had a little more variety and ultimately got more comfortable playing her style. That variety frustrated the other girl.”
Tran went on to finish the third set with a 10-6 tiebreak victory. During the match's dying moments, she said she focused on staying positive, staying focused on the court and not getting distracted by the crowd.
“I look at Lindsay (Zink) and I look at the person next to me, and it keeps me grounded,” she said. “(It) reminded (me) that it’s not an individual sport — it’s definitely team-oriented. So, just one (point) at a time.”
Both players may have celebrated their accomplishments differently, but both had an identical resilient attitude that allowed them to exit the court with a win. It’s an attitude that will be crucial as the Tar Heels approach conference play.
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