URBANA, ILL. - North Carolina's men's tennis team utilized victories at the No. 1 through No. 4 singles positions Friday to score a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Tulsa. The 18th-ranked Tar Heels defeated the 24th-ranked Golden Hurricane in the first semifinal match of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-Off Weekend being hosted by the University of Illinois.
Carolina improved to 3-0 on the season while Tulsa fell to 0-3. UNC advances to the championship match of the weekend event and will play either No. 16 Illinois of No. 19 Tennessee Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT at the Atkins Tennis Center. The Fighting Illini and the Volunteers face off at 7 p.m. tonight. The winner of tomorrow's match will advance to the ITA Team Indoor Nationals in Seattle, Wash., slated for Feb. 15-18.
This marks the second straight year the Tar Heels faced off in early-season dual match play and the results have been eerily similar both times. A year ago, Carolina beat the Golden Hurricane in Tulsa by a 5-2 margin in a match where the Tar Heels swept all four of the top-flighted singles matches, just as they did Friday in Urbana.
The difference was that this time UNC lost the doubles point as victories by Tulsa at No. 3 and No. 1 had the Golden Hurricane on top 1-0 in less than an hour's time. Tulsa had also won the doubles point against both Washington and Texas last weekend but in each case saw its opponents rally to win four of six singles matches.
Ironically, the Tar Heels pulled off the same result Friday. Key to the comeback was the decisive victory by senior co-captain William Parker at No. 4 singles. Ranked 102nd by the ITA, he whipped 69th-ranked Alejandro Espejo 6-1, 6-2 to even the match at 1-1. After Carlos Bautista regained the lead for the Hurricane with a straight set win over Oystein Steiro at No. 5, UNC won two matches in a row to go up 3-2.
Sophomore Eseben Hess-Olesen continued his stellar singles play in the 2012-13 season as the No. 18 Dane defeated 34th-ranked Japie De Klerk 6-3, 6-2 at the top spot in the lineup. Next off the court was Brett Clark, ranked 57th, as the Tar Heel freshman beat Grant Ive in straight sets at No. 3 singles.
Tristan Jackson's win over Taylor Meyer would even the match a final time at 3-3 before junior Nelson Vick provided the Tar Heels with the winning point at No. 2 singles. The transfer from Ohio State and nation's No. 58 player in the ITA standings won the first set 6-3 against Clifford Marsland before being spanked 6-1 in the second set. Vick kept his composure, however, and dominated the third set, winning handily at 6-2 to provide the ultimate difference.
Carolina has now won its semifinal match on ITA Kick-Off Weekend four successive years. The last loss in a semifinal at this event came to VCU in 2009 in Chapel Hill.
"William Parker our senior really led the way for us today," said UNC head coach Sam Paul. "He played great in both doubles and singles. Give our kids credit. They came back and they fought so we are very pleased with that. It was a very good win for us against a very good program."
#18 North Carolina 4, #24 Tulsa 3
Atkins Tennis Center, Urbana Ill.
ITA Kick-Off Weekend Semifinal Match
Doubles (Team Winning Majority Of Matches Earns One Team Point)
Order of match finish: (3, 1)
1. Clifford Masland and Alejandro Espejo (UT) d. #44 Esben Hess-Olesen and Nelson Vick (UNC), 8-5
2. Brett Clark and William Parker (UNC) led Grant Ive and Tristan Jackson (UT), 7-4, DNF
3. Japie De Klerk and Carlos Bautista (UT) d. Stuart DePaolo and Oystein Steiro (UNC), 8-5
Singles (One Team Point Per Singles Match)
Order of match finish: (4, 5, 1, 3, 6, 2)
1. #18 Esben Hess-Olesen (UNC) d. #34 Japie DeKlerk (UT), 6-3, 6-2
2. #58 Nelson Vick (UNC) d. Clifford Marsland (UT), 6-3, 1-6, 6-2
3. #57 Brett Clark (UNC) d. Grant Ive (UT), 7-5, 6-4
4. #102 William Parker (UNC) d. #69 Alejandro Espejo (UT), 6-1, 6-2
5. Carlos Bautista (UT) d. Oystein Steiro (UNC), 6-1, 6-4
6. Tristan Jackson (UT) d. Taylor Meyer (UNC), 6-1, 7-5
Records: North Carolina 3-0, Tulsa 0-3