The No.18 North Carolina men's tennis team fell 4-3 to No. 9 South Carolina on Sunday afternoon in its first road game of the season.
Graduate transfer Ryan Seggerman and sophomore Casey Kania got off to a slow start, losing the first point immediately off their opponent's serve. The duo was able to quickly bounce back, however, and gain a point for themselves off Seggerman's serve.
From there, the teams traded points back and forth, with neither obtaining a lead of more than one. The Tar Heels remained unable to make any forward momentum when South Carolina was at the service line — dropping most of the points, 40-0 — but made up for it with strong performances during their own possessions.
Seggerman once again was able to showcase his consistency from the baseline, which the Gamecocks were unable to crack. The two teams eventually found themselves tied up at 6-6, leading to a tie-breaker. UNC immediately pulled ahead, going up 4-1 before the match was called off as the other two courts had finished their own games.
North Carolina had lost the court two and court three matches — allowing South Carolina to obtain the doubles point — but the ability of Seggerman and Kania to rival the top team in the nation, and come out ahead, bodes very well for the coming season.
Graduate Brian Cernoch began his singles match against No. 15 Toby Samuel in a dominant fashion, utilizing his strong serve and excellent ball-control to clinch the first set 6-2.
Samuel seemed to come back to life in the second set however, and the two battled back and forth, eventually finding themselves knotted at 5-5. Samuel ultimately came out on top though, after the final two points of the set went to deuce.
Fatigue on both sides of the court was evident during the third set, with both players committing errors that they hadn't been early on in the match. The score remained close though, neither player gaining a lead of more than one. In the end, Samuel had a bit more gas left in the tank, and was able to clinch a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory for the Gamecocks after Cernoch double-faulted on match point.
Who stood out?
Doubles play was defined by the team of Seggerman and Kania, who were playing the No. 1 ranked pair of Toby Samuel and Connor Thomson.
Cernoch was the one to watch in singles, facing off against No. 15 ranked Toby Samuel in a physical matchup.
When was it decided?
North Carolina got off to a slow start, losing two of its doubles matches to give South Carolina an early one-point lead. It came back strong in singles play, winning the first three matches in a row, and going up 3-1 against the Gamecocks. The teams found themselves tied at 3-3 however, after Senior Anuj Watane and Cernoch dropped their matches. The deciding factor was Seggermans singles match against Thompson, which had gone into a long third set. Thompson was able to prevail though, and won the match for the Gamecocks 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Why does it matter?
The match against South Carolina was the teams first true test of the season, and served as an indicator for future success. Although North Carolina lost, the close nature of the match showed promise, and a dominant doubles performance from Seggerman and Kania against the best team in the nation bodes well for games down the road.
When do they play next?
North Carolina next takes the court at home to face-off against Oklahoma State during the ITA Kickoff weekend on Saturday, January 28. The match is set to start at 1 p.m.
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