At the end of the North Carolina's senior day match, UNC men's tennis head coach Sam Paul had just one thing to say.
“How much did our seniors step up?”
In Sunday's 4-2 win over Miami, the match was a tight three-and-a-half-hour battle to the finish and, fittingly, the seniors were at the forefront of the effort.
From the beginning of doubles play, it was clear that the Hurricanes would put up a strong fight, coming out of the gates challenging North Carolina on all three courts.
The No. 3 court pairing of first-year Will Jansen and graduate Karl Poling finished their contest first with a 6-4 win. It was graduate Brian Cernoch, playing alongside first-year Benjamin Kittay, that clinched the doubles point for North Carolina.
Tied at deuce on match point, Cernoch faced a slow-moving lob off the racket of one of his opponents. He drew his racquet back slowly and then slammed the ball onto the other side of the court, finishing the contest in a dramatic fashion and giving UNC a 1-0 lead going into singles.
Paul named Cernoch his standout player of the match.
“He’s fighting his tail off,” Paul said. “I love him like my son. He’s got more to do in the tournament, and he’s gonna do it. His grit and fight are what impressed me the most.”
To an outside observer, Cernoch may have seemed like an unlikely choice — he went on to drop his singles match in two sets, 1-6, 4-6. However, the graduate student, who is in his fifth and final season as a Tar Heel, helps the Tar Heels not only through his skill but also through his leadership.