CARY, N.C. – For the first time since 2009, the University of Miami women’s tennis team will be competing in the ACC Championship final after upsetting top-seeded and No. 2 ranked North Carolina, 4-3, in the first of two semifinal matches Saturday at the Cary Tennis Center.
“We played with such heart,” said UM head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews. “UNC pushes you to a different level physically and today we responded. Our girls never quit. They believed for four and a half hours.”
Freshman Kelsey Laurente, Miami’s 91st-ranked singles player, broke a 3-3 tie and sealed the gritty win for the Canes at No. 2 with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win over the Tar Heels’ 44th-ranked Zoe De Bruycker. The match was the last of three three-set singles bouts on the day.
It was the fourth three-set win on the year for Laurente and her third over a ranked opponent.
“This win was earned the hard way… Miami style,” said Yaroshuk-Tews.
After the Canes earned the doubles point, the Tar Heels evened the score as Kate Vialle took a 6-2, 6-2 win from Melissa Bolivar, snapping the junior’s singles win streak at 10.
The teams would continue the back-and-forth battle, as on Court 4, Miami freshman Clementina Riobueno gave her team a 2-1 lead, dismantling UNC’s 56th-ranked Caroline Price, 6-4, 6-4. The Barquisimeto, Venezuela native improved her singles record to 22-3 in the spring. The 22 wins is a team high.
UNC pulled even once again at 2-2 after Lauren McHale’s 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 5 over Monique Albuquerque.
Then, Sophomore Lina Lileikite pulled off another upset, defeating 36th-ranked Whitney Kay, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Kay is the highest-ranked player that Lileikite has defeated this season and it gave Miami the crucial 3-2 lead in the match.
However, once again, North Carolina would pull even with the Canes. At No. 1, seventh-ranked Gina Suarez-Malaguti won in three sets over UM’s 60th-ranked freshman, Stephanie Wagner, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. In the end, it would only further set up the Laurente’s dramatic finish on Court 2.
There was no shortage of drama in the doubles matches to start the day. Two of three matches went to a tie break, before the point was finally decided on Court 2.
Yaroshuk-Tews changed her doubles lineups late in the season, including the No. 3 team of Wagner and Brittany Dubins. The duo has been victorious in each of their three matches together, including Saturday’s 8-6 win over the UNC tandem of Lyons and Suarez-Malaguti.
The Tar Heels evened the doubles talley on Court 1, completing the first match to be decided by tie break, narrowly escaping the UM team of Riobueno and Albuquerque, 9-8 (4).
However, after coming from behind, Miami’s Laurente and Bolivar forced their own tie break and then dominated, blanking Price and Kay, 9-8 (0).
The win was the second straight over the Tar Heels in the postseason. Miami defeated North Carolina in last year’s NCAA Sweet 16.
“We need to rest and not get too excited,” said Yaroshuk-Tews. “Tomorrow is a new day with another tough opponent in front of us. We will be ready.”
Miami awaits the winner of Saturday’s second semifinal match between No. 7 seed Florida State and No. 3 seed Virginia. The championship match is scheduled to start Sunday at 11 a.m. A win would prove to be the first ACC title for the Hurricanes.
For more information on the ACC Championship, click here.
1. #61 Whitney Kay/Caroline Price (NC) def. Monique Albuquerque/Clementina Riobueno (UM) 9-8
2. Melissa Bolivar/Kelsey Laurente (UM) def. Ashley Dai/Zoe De Bruycker (NC) 9-8
3. Brittany Dubins/Stephanie Wagner (UM) def. Tessa Lyons/Gina Suarez-Malaguti (NC) 8-6
1. #7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti (NC) def. #60 Stephanie Wagner (UM) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
2. #91 Kelsey Laurente (UM) def. #44 Zoe De Bruycker (NC) 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
3. Lina Lileikite (UM) def. #36 Whitney Kay (NC) 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
4. Clementina Riobueno (UM) def. #56 Caroline Price (NC) 6-4, 6-4
5. Lauren McHale (NC) def. Monique Albuquerque (UM) 6-3, 6-4
6. Kate Vialle (NC) def. Melissa Bolivar (UM) 6-2, 6-2
Order of Finish:
Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (6,4,5,3,1,2)