North Carolina’s No. 1 men’s tennis team (12-0, 4-0 ACC) beat No. 14 South Carolina (10-6, 5-3 SEC) on Sunday with a final score of 4-3, extending the winning streak to 11 games against the Gamecocks.
After a 7-0 home win against Wofford on Wednesday, UNC traveled to Columbia, SC to take on South Carolina.
In doubles, No. 5 senior Mac Kiger and senior Simon Soendergaard went two games higher than Toby Samuel and Jake Beasley. However, South Carolina would respond and came back to win the set, 6-3.
No. 6 senior William Blumberg and junior Brian Cernoch split matches with No. 44 Connor Thomson and Daniel Rodrigues of South Carolina before finally dropping the set, 6-3.
In singles Cernoch lost to Samuel in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, and Blumberg fell to Rodrigues in a 6-3, 6-2 defeat. It looked like UNC’s undefeated start to the season was in jeopardy, but the Tar Heels would bounce back.
No. 55 sophomore Rinky Hijikata defeated No. 81 Raphael Lambling in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4. Additionally, No. 100 Josh Peck beat Jake Beasley in a hard-fought three sets, 6-2, 2-6, 6-0. After losing the first set, Soendergaard came back to win against Phillip Jordan 6-2, 7-6, 6-2.
In the end, No. 41 Benjamin Sigouin was able to hold off Thomson in three sets, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, to take the UNC victory.
Who stood out?
Hijikata and Peck took points for UNC, leading to the comeback of the Tar Heels.
Hijikata knocked down his opponent in two sets to create the first Tar Heel point of the afternoon. Although Peck dropped the second set, he bet and won the rest of his games in the third set.
I’m just so proud of our guys to come back and win a match like that, said head coach Sam Paul. Beating a good South Carolina team on the road is just a really good time for us.
When was it decided?
On their maiden trip to Columbia since 2006, the Tar Heels faced a strong contender in South Carolina, who is number 14 nationally. Early in the game, South Carolina showed its strength by winning the doubles early in the afternoon and scooping two singles points. But UNC refused to give up, and after Hijikata and Peck’s victories, Soendergaard came back from his first set loss, 6-2, to win the second and third sets against Jordan.
Minutes later, the team rushed to Court 2 to celebrate Sigouins’ victory over Thomson, completing the comeback against South Carolina.
Our boys just didn’t quit, even though we had serious issues, Paul said. Three of our last four games were won in the third set, so that’s a very good sign of how hard we fought today.
Why does it matter?
The last time these teams played was during ITA Kickoff Weekend in Chapel Hill, when North Carolina came out on top, 4-1. In Columbia, the Tar Heels were able to repeat the same success as in January.
With another win in the books, North Carolina is the last team to remain unbeaten in the Oracle / ITA rankings.
When will they play next?
Now with a winning streak of 12 games, UNC will resume the ACC game by traveling to Blacksburg, Virginia to play it on Friday, March 26 at 2:00 PM against Virginia Tech.
Well, learn some things from today’s game, said Paul. I look forward to a very warm week.
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