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Friday February 3rd

No. 18 UNC men's tennis starts hunt for national title in season-opening win

UNC senior Brian Cernoch prepares for a hit during a men's tennis match against Virginia Tech on Friday, Mar. 4, 2022. UNC won 4-1.
Buy Photos UNC senior Brian Cernoch prepares for a hit during a men's tennis match against Virginia Tech on Friday, Mar. 4, 2022. UNC won 4-1.

The No. 18 North Carolina men’s tennis team has one goal — to win the NCAA tournament.

With UNC's clean sweep of both Campbell and N.C. Central Universities on Thursday night to open its season, the Tar Heels have made a step in the right direction. Led by graduate transfer Ryan Seggerman and graduate student Brian Cernoch playing on the No. 1 and No. 2 courts respectively, the team recorded back-to-back 7-0 victories.

Looking up and down the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center, not a single Tar Heel seemed to be struggling at any point during the night. Instead, consistency reigned supreme. All members of the UNC team won every game, and no players dropped a single set. 

Seggerman, who was playing his first minutes of team play as a Tar Heel, attributed both his personal success, and the overall victory, to the support of his teammates. 

“I was a little bit nervous and jumpy at the beginning,” Seggerman said. “But it's a good group of guys. (We) got each other pumped up, and once we got rolling, it was good.” 

His nerves were not reflected in his play — from the first doubles point against Campbell, to the final singles point of the night against N.C. Central, Seggerman was clearly the one in control. 

He demonstrated his excellent control, tactfully placing the ball in far corners of the court and forcing his opponents to run, become weary and make mistakes. And although Seggerman is a new addition to the team, it was clear his fellow teammates had already developed a close connection with him, whooping when he won points and shouting “Go Seggy,” from the balcony above the courts. 

Playing directly across from Seggerman, and receiving just as much attention, Cernoch also put on a dominant performance to begin another season with the team. 

Throughout the two matches, in which Cernoch played both singles and doubles in each, he never dropped more than a single game per set. 

“First match of the season can always be a little tricky,” he said. “I just wanted to come in focused, dial in and just put on a good display of tennis.”

After the Tar Heels’ dominant opening victories, they made it clear that they were on the hunt for a team championship this year — and they think they’ve got the players to do it. 

“As a team we want to win everything,” Seggerman said. “I want to win everything, I want the team to win everything. We want to win ACC’s, we want to be playing in the national championship at the end of the season. I think we’ve got a group that can do it.” 

Head coach Sam Paul also believes in the ability of his team to win the elusive championship that he has been searching for in his 30 years at UNC. However, in order for the players to achieve their maximum potential, he said that they must continue to work hard, put in consistent performances and maintain a positive attitude. 

“(We) just gotta keep on getting better, (even though that) sounds sort of boring,” Paul said. “We want to get in the NCAA Tournament first and then we want to do a lot of damage.”

In previous years, the team may have hesitated in making such bold statements, but this year the players feel confident that they can make it all the way. Talent runs deep throughout the squad, and the combination of experienced returning players and promising new additions has led to an exciting and promising Tar Heel roster. 

“As a team obviously we’re striving to win the NCAA tournament,” Cernoch said. “I’m not going to shy away from saying that — I think we have a good team so hopefully we can achieve some of those goals this year.” 

With numerous tough contests on the horizon, beginning with a match against No. 9 South Carolina on Sunday, the Tar Heels will have to maintain their consistency and composure, while remaining confident, in order to achieve their goals. 

“One down and a lot more to go,” Seggerman said.  

@PeaceGwen

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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