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UNC men's tennis loses to USC in first round of ITA National Team Indoor Championship

20230128_Le_uncmenstennis
UNC graduate Ryan Seggerman hits a ball during a match against Oklahoma State at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. UNC beat Oklahoma State 4-0.

The No. 10 seed North Carolina Men’s Tennis Team (6-3) fell 1-4 to No. 7 seed USC (7-1) Friday afternoon in the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship in Chicago. 

What happened?

The Tar Heels got off to a strong start in doubles, with all three pairs taking an early lead. The Trojans responded quickly, and were able to remain within touching distance, never trailing by more than two games in the doubles portion. However, UNC was able to retain the upper hand, and the duo of sophomore Casey Kania and No. 19 ranked graduate Ryan Seggerman, playing on the No. 1 court, were able to achieve the first win of the match in a 7-6(1) tiebreak. Following close behind at the No. 2 spot were No. 59 ranked graduate Brain Cernoch and first-year Benjamin Kittay, who clinched the doubles point for UNC with a 6-4 victory. 

USC showed their dominance from the start in singles play, with the majority of its players immediately appearing to have the upper hand over UNC. On court No.1, Cenoch, who was facing No. 35 ranked Stefan Dostanic, was quickly outmatched, and dropped the first set 6-1. His attempt to rally back in the second set also proved to be unsuccessful, and Dostanic was able to give the Trojans their first point with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. 

Seggerman appeared to be the only UNC player in control at the beginning of his singles match against No. 34 ranked Peter Makk, breezing to a 6-1 win in the first set. Makk, however, was able to claw his way back into the game and ultimately triumph in a tightly contested 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 challenge. 

The rest of the UNC team fared similarly, with first year Will Jansen and sophomore Chris Li both losing in straight sets to give USC a 4-1 victory and a ticket to the round of eight.

Who stood out?

Seggerman, playing in the No. 1 doubles position and the No. 2 singles position, appeared strong throughout the afternoon, despite eventually falling in singles play. He once again demonstrated his strong doubles game, achieving a win over the No. 12 ranked USC team of Dostanic and Bradley Frye through an extremely consistent performance from the baseline. 

He also played well in singles, recording 15 aces over the span of the match and putting in a dominant first set performance.  

When was it decided?

The match remained close throughout its over two hour duration, and seemed as if it could swing either way. However, after Cernoch, Jansen, and Li dropped their matches, it became clear that USC had the upper hand. 

The final nail in the coffin for the Tar Heel was Seggerman losing his match in the final set, allowing the Trojans to attain a 4-1 win. 

Why does it matter?

North Carolina had listed the Indoor Championship title as one of its goals for the 2023 season, which became unattainable with its loss today. Furthermore, the loss demonstrates a lack of consistency on behalf of the Tar Heels. Despite leading at the beginning of the match, and having multiple opportunities to pull ahead of the Trojans, UNC was unable to do so and ultimately took itself out of contention for the title. Looking ahead to the Spring, the Tar Heels will need to fix these consistency issues to ensure that they come out on top and achieve their goals in the regular season. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will next take the court on Saturday to face off against Florida in the consolation bracket. The start time had not been determined. 

@PeaceGwen

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Gwen Peace

Gwen Peace is the 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a senior writer. Gwen is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and peace, war and defense.