ORLANDO, Fla. – The North Carolina women’s tennis team are NCAA Champions for the first time in program history. The No. 1 Tar Heels (35-1) knocked down the No. 4 N.C. State Wolfpack (28-5) 4-1 in the NCAA Championship on Saturday.
The UNC doubles teams came out swift and dominant. Upsetting No. 9 Nell Miller and Amelia Rajecki, sophomore Carson Tanguilig and senior Elizabeth Scotty worked in unison and controlled at the net in their quick 6-1 victory.
On court three, first-year Reese Brantmeier and junior Reilly Tran won a hard-fought deuce point at the 2-2 mark with a Brantmeier volley putting the N.C. State net player off-balance. The UNC duo built a strong lead from that point forward, and prevented the Wolfpack from tying by clinching the match for the Tar Heels, 6-4.
Graduate student Abbey Forbes and junior Fiona Crawley were the only team to fall — defeated by powerful No. 4 N.C. State duo Diana Shnaider and Alana Smith. Despite the defeat, the North Carolina duo put up a fight, holding their ground in the backcourt against hard-hit returns and keeping game scores within a couple points.
Singles were a tougher test for the Tar Heels. Only winning half of the first sets, North Carolina needed to dig deep to put up the necessary points to clinch. Ending her three-game win-streak, Brantmeier fell to No. 7 Shnaider in straight-sets — 3-6, 4-6.
Among the first set wins, No. 1 Crawley and No. 28 Tanguilig put up a quick set win, but their second sets proved to be a battle.
Against No. 13 Smith, Crawley struggled to put away her match. Falling into a 2-4 deficit, Crawley turned the tide by forcing Smith to chase down balls and tied it at 4-4. However, another push from Smith with powerful, unreachable returns down the line led to another tied 5-5 set score. Surviving a key deuce point, Crawley forced a tie-break for the set.
No matter the landing spot of the shot, Crawley was there, responding with a hard-hit shot. The UNC junior dominated the key tie-break, becoming the first Tar Heel to put up a singles point with a final score of 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).
Who stood out?
Scotty survived a tight first set and tie-break in order to post a win on the scoreboard for UNC. Splitting deuce points and long rallies led to a tied 6-6 score. The score remained back-and-forth for the majority of the tie-break, but when Scotty earned a win at the 7-7 mark, she worked off that momentum to clinch the first set with a score of 7-6 (9-7).
With that set under her belt, Scotty chased down every hard-to-reach shot and continued to move her opponent from side-to-side. She put her team one step closer to victory with a 6-3 win in the second set.
When was it decided?
Tanguilig’s third set thriller officially clinched the match in favor of North Carolina. After clinching the first set 6-4, the UNC sophomore struggled to close out the match, leading to a 4-6 loss. Finding the empty side of the court and alternating her shot style from hard-hit forehands to slices, Tanguilig grabbed the third set win with a 6-3 victory.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels earned their first ever NCAA championship title with Saturday’s victory. In the team’s third meeting against N.C. State, UNC got their revenge from the ACC Tournament championship match and ended the season with a 2-1 record against the Wolfpack.
Five out of six singles matches went into a tie-break of some kind throughout the match. On court five, Tran overcame a three-game deficit to tie up the second set score at 6-6. Winning that tie-break 7-2, the UNC junior forced a third set tie-break before Tanguilig’s point ended the match. Additionally, senior Anika Yarlagadda had a major comeback to force a third set. With every close match, the Tar Heels showed signs of edging towards victory and set the stage for Tanguilig’s eventual clinch.
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