No. 7 Tar Heels Head Back To NCAA Round Of 16
CHAPEL HILL --- No. 7 North Carolina withstood an incredible comeback attempt by Arizona to advance to the NCAA Championship final site in Athens, Ga., with a 4-2 victory Saturday afternoon at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. Caroline Price won 9-7 in a third-set tiebreak to give the Tar Heels the clinching point and a spot in the round of 16 for the third year in a row.
Carolina (24-6) got what would prove to be a crucial early point courtesy of two 8-5 doubles victories at the top two positions.
No. 81 Haley Hemm and Tessa Lyons finished first, outlasting Sarah Landsman and Hailey Johnson at No. 2 doubles. No. 4 Shinann Featherston and Lauren McHale then clinched the point with their 8-5 win over No. 37 Lacey Smyth and Natasha Marks on the showcase court.
After winning opening sets on four of six singles courts, the Tar Heels were poised to cruise into the NCAA round of 16. But Arizona (16-9) proved more than capable of making it a highly competitive match.
Carolina got two quick points from the bottom two positions, as Suarez-Malaguti and Hemm combined to drop just five games in their straight-set wins on courts five and six.
No. 106 Featherston and No. 104 Price also posted comfortable opening-set wins on the middle two courts before the Wildcats began their fierce rally.
No. 50 Smyth got Arizona on the board for the first time on court one, outlasting No. 38 Zoe De Bruycker in three sets, 6-0, 7-6, 6-1. Moments later it was 3-2 when No. 91 Marks finished off No. 39 McHale on court two, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
Suddenly the match was all but even, with players on courts three and four splitting sets and neither team gaining much separation.
Price opened up a 3-0 lead in the third on court four before Landsman quickly pulled within one game at 3-2. Meanwhile, Featherston had gotten down an early break to No. 107 Stubbe on court three.
Landsman then got the match at No. 4 back on serve at 4-4, while Featherston and Stubbe were trading breaks on court three.
Eventually the match on court four would require a tiebreak to settle things. Landsman had the upper hand early, winning the first four points before taking a 4-2 advantage into the first changeover.
On court three, Stubbe had an opportunity to serve for the match up 5-4, but Featherston never faced a match point in getting the key break to make it 5-5.
Price had no such luxury on court four, as the Duluth, Ga., freshman found herself facing three match points down 3-6 in the tiebreak. But with Landsman serving for the match, Price held on to get the mini-break back at 5-6. She then won the next point to make it 6-all going into the second changeover.
Back on court three, Featherston, who was starting to battle leg cramps, had called for her medical timeout between games at 5-all.
Price, who had also used a medical timeout for cramps in the third set, lost the next point of the tiebreak and faced a fourth match point at 6-7. But Price once again had an answer for Landsman's serve, winning two more points to get her first crack and serving for the match at 8-7. It would only take one match point for Price to convert, however, and Carolina got the fourth and final point to secure the dual and deny Arizona what would have been a comeback for the ages.
The victory puts UNC into the round of 16 for the third consecutive season and the eighth time in program history. The Tar Heels will face a familiar foe at the final site in ACC rival and No. 10 seed Miami. That match, which will be played at the University of Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex, is set for Thursday, May 17, at 7 p.m.
No. 7 North Carolina 4, Arizona 2
1. #4 Featherston/McHale (UNC) def. #37 Smyth/Marks (UA), 8-5
2. #81 Hemm/Lyons (UNC) def. Landsman/Johnson (UA), 8-5
3. Suarez-Malaguti/Price (UNC) vs. Stubbe/Mc Rann (UA), 7-4, DNF
Order of finish: 2, 1
1. #50 Lacey Smyth (UA) def. #38 Zoe De Bruycker (UNC), 6-0, 6-7, 6-1
2. #91 Natasha Marks (UA) def. #39 Lauren McHale (UNC), 6-2, 4-6, 6-1
3. #106 Shinann Featherston (UNC) vs. #107 Kim Stubbe (UA), 6-2, 4-6, 5-5, DNF
4. #104 Caroline Price (UNC) def. Sarah Landsman (UA), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7)
5. Gina Suarez-Malaguti (UNC) def. Susan Mc Rann (UA), 6-1, 6-1
6. Tessa Lyons (UNC) def. Laura Oldham (UA), 6-1, 6-2
Order of finish: 5, 6, 1, 2, 4