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Tar Heels Bound For NCAA Quarterfinals After Edging Illini
Friday, 05/15/2015
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North Carolina Team Page

WACO, TEXAS – Finding themselves in a must-win situation, North Carolina sophomores Brayden Schnur and Ronnie Schneider both prevailed in third sets on Thursday to rally the No. 13 Tar Heels past No. 4 Illinois 4-3 in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament Round of 16 at Hurd Tennis Center. With the win, the Tar Heels will move on to the NCAA quarterfinals for the third time in program history and second season in a row.
 
UNC moves to 24-10 on the season, while Illinois finishes with a mark of 27-5. No. 5 TCU awaits the Tar Heels in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT.
 
Carolina set the tone in doubles play, taking the point with victories on courts one and three. UNC’s pair of Schnur and senior Esben Hess-Olesen earned an 8-5 triumph over the Illini’s 36th-ranked duo of Jared Hiltzik and Tim Kopinski at the No. 1 spot. On court three, Schneider and fellow sophomore Jack Murray jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Blake Bazarnik and Aron Hiltzik, but Bazarnik and Hiltzik battled back by taking four of the next six games. Finally in a position to put the match away up 7-4, Schneider sent a devastating forehand down the line on triple break point to secure the doubles point for UNC.
 
The Tar Heels got off to a fast start in singles play by taking five first sets, but the Fighting Illini clawed back to send four matches to third sets.    
 
Illinois’ No. 74 Aleks Vukic tied the contest at 1-1 on court five by handing Robert Kelly just his seventh career singles loss, 6-3, 6-2. Coming off a clincher against Mississippi State in the NCAA second round, Esben Hess-Olesen countered by providing another critical win for the Tar Heels on court six. He dismissed Toshiki Matsuya 6-3, 6-2 in the only other two-set match of the day.
 
The Fighting Illinois then claimed two matches in a row on courts three and four to gain a 3-2 advantage. At the No. 3 spot, No. 65 Tim Kopinski outlasted 73rd-ranked junior Brett Clark 4-6, 6-1, 6-0, while No. 81 Aron Hiltzik edged Jack Murray 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on court four.
                                                     
Singles play culminated in pressure-packed third sets on courts one and two, where Schnur and Schneider had both taken first-set tiebreakers but dropped second sets. The 11th-ranked Schnur, a native of Pickering, Ontario, took control in his third set and ultimately served out a 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-2 triumph over No. 33 Farris Gosea on court one. Schneider was not far behind Schnur on the neighboring court. After No. 23 Jared Hiltzik held serve to make it 5-3, Schneider served out a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3 victory, punching Carolina’s ticket to the Elite Eight and avenging the Tar Heels’ heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Illinois in Champaign-Urbana on January 31.
 
“What a match,” said UNC head coach Sam Paul. “I thought we played really well in doubles, and then they took some momentum from us in the second sets. It was really strange. We jumped on them with five first sets and then they came roaring back. Illinois has a great team and we knew that coming in, but I am just so proud of my team.
 
“We have played a very tough schedule. We have played everybody. We are starting to get healthy again, and if you look at our senior, Esben [Hess-Olesen], it is his second singles match since February. [We] put him back in and he is playing singles and he won a huge match for us in regionals. Again he got off quick and was able to give us some momentum. We have been in some tough spots all year long, but our kids fight. We are sort of used to this, so it was a great win.”
 
Saturday’s showdown with TCU is an opportunity for Carolina to advance to the NCAA semifinal round for the first time in program history. Last season, UNC dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 2 Oklahoma in the quarterfinals. The Tar Heels also advanced to the quarterfinals in 1992 but fell to UCLA 5-2. The Horned Frogs defeated Wake Forest 4-0 on Thursday and will be making their ninth quarterfinal appearance in program history and first appearance since 2001. 
 
#13 North Carolina 4, #4 Illinois 3
 
Singles competition
1. #11 Brayden Schnur (UNC) def. #33 Farris Gosea (UI) 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-2
2. #28 Ronnie Schneider (UNC) def. #23 Jared Hiltzik (UI) 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3
3. #65 Tim Kopinski (UI) def. #73 Brett Clark (UNC) 4-6, 6-1, 6-0
4. #81 Aron Hiltzik def. Jack Murray (UNC) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
5. #74 Aleks Vukic (UI) def. Robert Kelly (UNC) 6-3, 6-2
6. Esben Hess-Olesen (UNC) def. Toshiki Matsuya (UI) 6-3, 6-2
 
Doubles competition
1. Esben Hess-Olesen/Brayden Schnur (UNC) def. #36 Jared Hiltzik/Tim Kopinski (UI) 8-5
2. #45 Brett Clark/Robert Kelly (UNC) led Farris Gosea/Aleks Vukic (UI) 7-5
3. Jack Murray/Ronnie Schneider (UNC) def. Blake Bazarnik/Aron Hiltzik (UI) 8-4
 
Match Notes:
North Carolina 24-10; National ranking #13
Illinois 27-5; National ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (5,6,3,4,1,2)


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