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Top-seeded Tar Heels top Miami in Championship final
CARY, N.C. (theACC.com) – Miami pushed North Carolina to the limit as expected in the Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Tennis Championship final, but the top-seeded Tar Heels left Cary Tennis Park having achieved ACC perfection.
UNC claimed a 4-2 win over the second-seeded Hurricanes before a sun-splashed crowd on Sunday, following up a regular season in which it posted a 14-0 record in conference play with its first ACC Championship crown since 2011.
“It was grueling,” said Tar Heel coach Brian Kalbas, whose nationally second-ranked team now has time to exhale before the start of NCAA play next month. “To go through the regular season unbeaten (in ACC play) was a tremendous milestone, but you have a target on your back when you get here and have already beaten everybody. We felt like we still had a lot to gain, and we still had to prove it.”
Three-set wins by Jessie Aney at No. 3 and Kate Vialle at No. 4 lifted UNC to victory after the Hurricanes tied the match at 2-2. Miami’s Ana Madcur held a 4-1 lead over the Tar Heels’ Ashley Dai on the No. 6 court when Vialle closed out a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over Silvia Fuentes to clinch the match for UNC.
“We knew we were going to get everyone’s best shot, and Miami played unbelievably well today,” Kalbas said. “We were just a little bit better, which speaks volumes for our team and where we are with the program.”
The Tar Heels (29-2) had finished atop the ACC standings each of the previous three years – including a 14-0 league mark last season – only to stumble in the ACC Championship on each occasion. Several UNC players shed tears of joy following Sunday’s breakthrough win.
“We’ve been talking about this since my freshman year,” said junior Hayley Carter, who added tournament MVP to her list of season accolades after being voted the ACC Player of the Year. “We wanted to send our three amazing seniors out with an ACC title. They’ve been wanting it so bad, and it’s taken them a while to achieve it. I think that is why you saw so many emotions today.”
UNC grabbed the upper hand at the outset by taking the doubles point. The fourth-ranked team of Carter and Whitney Kay delivered for the Tar Heels at the No. 1 slot, downing ninth-ranked Stephanie Wagner and Wendy Zhang by a 6-2 score.
Miami’s Sinead Lohan and Clara Tanielian countered with a 6-2 victory over Vialle and Aney at No. 2. But UNC clinched the point on the No. 3 court, as Dai and Chloe Oullet-Pizer were 6-2 winners over Madcur and Fuentes.
UNC led 2-1 after the teams split the No. 1 and No. 2 singles, both of which showcased nationally-ranked players. The Tar Heels’ top-ranked Carter defeated sixth-ranked Wagner 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1, while Miami’ eighth-ranked Lohan posted a 6-2, 7-5 win over No. 39 Kay at No. 2.
That left the final four singles slots to decide the championship. Tanielian’s 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 win over Marika Akkerman at No. 5 tied the score, but Aney and Vialle stepped up to deliver the match for UNC.
The nationally seventh-ranked Hurricanes (19-5) suffered their first loss in 16 matches, but coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews’ squad still sits in prime position for a high NCAA Tournament seed.
Despite rain that interrupted play on both Friday and Saturday, this year’s ACC Tennis Championships drew a record total attendance of 1,704.