For the first time in program history, the North Carolina women’s tennis team captured the ITA National Team Indoor Championship this morning in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In an improbable run, the eighth seeded Tar Heels upset the top-seeded and defending National Indoor Champion UCLA Bruins, 4-3. UNC improves to 9 – 0 on the season while UCLA drops to 6 – 1.
The match favored UCLA early. In first doubles, sophomore and JTCC alum Skylar Morton teamed up with Robin Anderson to defeat the Tar Heel duo of Kay and Ashley Dai, 8 – 6. Anderson was recently featured in a New York Times article. The Bruins secured the doubles point when Kyle McPhillips and Catherine Harrison edged Lauren McHale and Tessa Lyons, 8-4.
“We talked to the team after doubles and told them we didn’t want to give up any free points or create any more momentum for UCLA,” UNC head coach Brian Kalbas said after the match.
The Tar Heels heeded their coach’s advice and bounced back in singles play. Trailing 2 – 0 in the overall match, Gina Suarez-Malaguti (No. 11 nationally in singles) notched a win against Anderson (No. 6 nationally in singles) in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. UNC then surged to a 3-2 advantage before Kyle McPhillips of UCLA earned a hard-fought victory in second singles. With the match knotted at 3 – 3, it was up to a freshman to decide UNC’s fate. For the second time in three days, freshman Whitney Kay delivered a clutch three-set win, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5).
“For a freshman to be in that situation, in this kind of environment, and come up with two clinching wins gives us all so much confidence moving forward,” noted Kalbas. “[Pamela] Montez played a nearly flawless third set and Whitney just continued to trust her game.”
UNC will host No. 1 and defending NCAA Champion Florida next Monday while UCLA returns to action on February 22 to take on Cal.
Check back later this week for a preview of the 2013 ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship (play starts on Friday, February 15).