No. 25 Yellow Jackets Fall To No. 8 Tar Heels 4-3 In ACC Semifinals
CARY, N.C. – Heading into this weekend’s ACC Women’s Tennis Championships, Georgia Tech head coach Bryan Shelton said if the Yellow Jackets could build some momentum in a first-round win, he felt like they could really make some noise.
Unfortunately, for Shelton and the Yellow Jackets (14-11), their quest for a fifth ACC title ended with a 4-3 loss to the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (22-5) Saturday afternoon at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C.
For the first time against North Carolina in 2012 and the 16th overall time this season, the Yellow Jackets claimed the doubles point in a thriller. After Tech split at courts one and two with Elizabeth Kilborn and Lynn Blau notched an 8-6 victory over their 69th ranked opponents and No. 16 Jillian O’Neill and Alex Anghelescu dropping a 8-6 decision to third-ranked Shiann Featherston and Lauren McHale, the point came down to court three.
Playing together for just the fourth time ever, Caroline Lilley and Muriel Wacker launched comeback after comeback staving off match point multiple times including a 3-6 deficit in the tiebreaker (play is until seven points) to earn a 9-7 tiebreaker victory and give the Jackets the 1-0 advantage.
“The doubles play was a lot of fun, to see us come out of the blocks after an emotional win yesterday, and start the way we did today,” Shelton said. “I was really proud of our team for bringing that type of energy to start the match again. North Carolina is one of the best doubles teams in the country, and they’re just a great team overall.
“I give them a lot of credit for bouncing back after losing a tough doubles point,” Shelton added. “They had triple-match point at No. 3 doubles and Caroline and Muriel just hung in there and really stayed tough through to the end. That was exciting. We just ran out of a little bit of gas there today. Miami was able to take a lot out of our legs yesterday and North Carolina was able to finish us off in a tight match today.”
Blau extended the Jacket lead with an easy 6-0, 6-1 victory at No. 5 singles over Gina Suarez-Malaguti. But North Carolina responded as Anghelescu fell 6-2, 6-0 on court four while Kilborn dropped a 6-0, 6-2 decision at No. 3 singles as the match evened out at two-all.
“UNC is tough. I felt like they were just a little bit fresher than we were,” Shelton said. “They earned that bye by having a great regular season in the ACC and that bye proved to be really important out here. We were out here playing late starts and they deserved to have the earlier starts. You have to earn that throughout the regular season and they did a good job of earning that.”
O’Neill gave Tech a 3-2 edge with a 6-4, 6-4 win over her 34th ranked opponent, McHale, battling back from a 4-1 deficit to earn the victory. But just as soon as the Jackets took the lead, the match was over, as Wacker dropped a 6-3, 6-4 decision on court six followed by a 6-4, 6-4 loss on court to from Lilley.
The Yellow Jackets now await the announcement of the NCAA tournament field. The team announcement will be made on May 1 followed by the individual selection on May 2. The NCAA Championships will run from May 18-28 concluding at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
“It’s going to be fun,” Shelton said of the NCAA Championships. “I’m looking forward to this next segment, finishing strong. I feel like we’ve gathered some momentum here. I think our team is gathering more confidence. We certainly got some from this weekend, beating a great Miami team, playing really well against Maryland in the first round and pushing North Carolina to the limit again. We have to re-group, get through finals, we have a couple weeks to rest the legs and we’ll gear up for this final push.”
Tennis Match Results
Georgia Tech vs North Carolina
Apr 21, 2012 at Cary, N.C.
#8 North Carolina 4, #25 Georgia Tech 3
1. #14 Jillian O'Neill (GT) def. #34 Lauren McHale (NC) 6-4, 6-4
2. #37 Zoe De Bruycker (NC) def. Caroline Lilley (GT) 6-4, 6-4
3. #97 Shiann Featherston (NC) def. Elizabeth Kilborn (GT) 6-0, 6-2
4. #94 Caroline Price (NC) def. Alex Anghelescu (GT) 6-2, 6-0
5. Lynn Blau (GT) def. Gina Suarez-Malaguti (NC) 6-0, 6-1
6. Tessa Lyons (NC) def. Muriel Wacker (GT) 6-3, 6-4
1. #3 Shiann Featherston/Lauren McHale (NC) def. #16 Jillian O'Neill/Alex Anghelescu (GT) 8-6
2. Elizabeth Kilborn/Lynn Blau (GT) def. #69 Haley Hemm/Tessa Lyons (NC) 8-6
3. Muriel Wacker/Caroline Lilley (GT) def. Caroline Price/Gina Suarez-Malaguti (NC) 9-8 (9-7)
Georgia Tech 14-11, 6-5 ACC; National ranking #25
North Carolina 22-5, 10-1 ACC; National ranking #8
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (5,4,3,1,6,2)