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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's tennis defeats N.C. State in revenge-filled ACC semifinals

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UNC senior Elizabeth Scotty and first-year Thea Rabman celebrate the team's win against NC State and advancement to the ACC championship match at Carry Tennis Park on Saturday, April 20, 2024. UNC won 4-0.

CARY, N.C. – The Tar Heels wanted revenge. There was a score to settle. 

On Saturday, UNC faced a familiar foe in N.C. State — once again meeting with a tournament run on the line. Last year, it was for the ACC Championship, and N.C. State took home that trophy. Then, there was a rematch in the NCAA title game. UNC got that one.

But this season? North Carolina was 0-2 against the Wolfpack, with both matches going down to the wire.

According to senior Anika Yarlagadda, North Carolina was fueled by redemption when the Tar Heels stepped on the court on Saturday in the ACC tournament semifinals. She said they played like they had nothing to lose. 

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UNC senior Anika Yarlagadda reaches to strike the ball during a singles match against NC State during the ACC semifinals match at Carry Tennis Park on Saturday, April 20, 2024. UNC won 4-0.

“We really came in like, ‘We have to give everything that we have,’” she said. “We just had a different mindset. We’re not letting them have everything. We’re going to dig that extra ball. We’re going to go for that serve. We’re going to try to outcompete and outplay them. That’s how you win championships.” 

No. 1-seeded North Carolina suffocated No. 4-seeded N.C. State, 4-0, at the Cary Tennis Park in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. After sweeping all three doubles matches, UNC rode that momentum into singles.  

Ahead of Saturday, head coach Brian Kalbas said the team wasn’t nervous. They were excited. They were hungry. 

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UNC head coach Brian Kalabas speaks with senior Fiona Crawley and junior Carson Tanguilig before the match against NC State during the ACC semifinals match at Carry Tennis Park on Saturday, April 20, 2024. UNC won 4-0.

It started with doubles, where UNC’s intensity was obvious from the very first point. 

As soon as senior Elizabeth Scotty’s return hit its mark in the game's first rally, she let out her signature “Point!” in the loudest yell she could muster. 

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UNC senior Elizabeth Scotty celebrates winning her singles match against NC State during the ACC semifinals match at Carry Tennis Park on Saturday, April 20, 2024. UNC won 4-0.

In the ACC Championship last year, Kalbas said the Tar Heels allowed their bad start in doubles to carry into singles. So this time, North Carolina ensured the opposite occurred.

First, Scotty and Yarlagadda came out punching on court two, winning 6-2

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UNC senior Anika Yarlagadda celebrates after winning a point during a doubles match against NC State during the ACC semifinals match at Carry Tennis Park on Saturday, April 20, 2024. UNC won 4-0.

Yarlagadda said it was her first time across five seasons with the Tar Heels playing in the doubles lineup in the ACC tournament. But, with the seasoned Scotty — who is ranked No. 1 in doubles — at her side, Yarlagadda relaxed. She said she told herself everything would be fine as long as she trusted herself and worked to set up her partner for game winners. 

Kalbas said the two seniors’ chemistry and experience allowed them to post a dominant victory. 

“Anika can take instruction,” Kalbas said before cracking a small smile, “and Scotty loves to give instruction.”

Then, graduate student Abbey Forbes and senior Reilly Tran clinched the team point with a 6-4 victory. Not so fast, though. On court one, senior Fiona Crawley and junior Carson Tanguilig were given the green light to finish out their match and followed suit, winning 7-5. 

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UNC graduate student Abby Forbes and senior Reilly Tran embrace after winning their doubles match against NC State during the ACC semifinals match at Carry Tennis Park on Saturday, April 20, 2024. UNC won 4-0.

But that was only one team point. Singles would still determine the rest of the story.

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Last season, the team struggled to feel grounded and connected with each other during singles, Yarlagadda said. The fences lining the blue and green courts of Cary Tennis Park made it hard to see her teammates — to check in on their matches and offer encouragement. But this year, she said the Tar Heels focused not only on their own courts, but also staying connected with their teammates beside them. 

On Saturday, the team cheered, yelled and chanted until Scotty finally clinched the last point of the match. 

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UNC senior Elizabeth Scotty strikes the ball during a singles match against NC State during the ACC semifinals match at Carry Tennis Park on Saturday, April 20, 2024. UNC won 4-0.

Scotty said UNC needed that redeeming victory. To do so in a 4-0 fashion was an exclamation point. 

The Tar Heels desired revenge and they earned it. 

The job isn’t done yet, though. A championship trophy is still on the line and another familiar foe awaits in No. 4 Virginia. This time, North Carolina knows what it takes. 

“I think we need to step on the court like we did today,” Yarlagadda said. “So really trusting ourselves, believing in each other, staying together, going for shots [and] being brave and resilient.” 

@carolinewills03

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com