ATLANTA — Oystein Steiro and William Parker rallied from one-set deficits at No. 5 and No. 6 singles Sunday to lift 18th-ranked North Carolina to a 4-2 victory against 15th-ranked Illinois at the Bill Moore Tennis Center on the Georgia Tech campus.
The match took four hours and two minutes to play as Carolina avenged a 4-1 loss to Illinois in last year’s NCAA tournament second round match in Champaign, Ill.
Playing its third match against a Top 25 team in eight days, the Tar Heels gained the upper hand against the Fighting Illini by capturing the doubles point. Joey Burkhardt and Esben Hess Olesen improved to 3-0 in doubles action at the No. 2 spot, posting their third consecutive 8-2 win by whipping Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon.
Carolina then clinched the team point as senior Brennan Boyajain and Steiro won at the No. 1 singles spot, persevering for an 8-6 victory against Illinois’ Dennis Nevolo and Farris Gosea. The No. 3 doubles match was even at seven games each when it was abandoned to move on to singles play.
Esben Hess Olesen continued his stellar play, moving to 3-0 on the season at the No. 3 singles spot. He downed Bruno Abdelnour 6-2, 6-2 to give the Tar Heels a 2-0 lead. It didn’t take long for the Fighting Illini to even the match. Tim Kopinski defeated Burkhardt in straight sets at No. 4 singles and second-ranked Dennis Nevolo followed with a 6-4, 6-1 against Carolina’s Jose Hernandez at the top spot in the lineup.
Attention then turned to the other three courts. UNC’s Brennan Boyajian had won the first set at No. 2 but Illinois had first set wins at the other two spots in the lineup. Eventually all three matches went to three sets.
Steiro got the Tar Heels back on top 3-2 as he rallied to win 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 at No. 5 singles against Farris Gosea. Oystein captured the second set tiebreaker 8-6 and was down 4-3 in the third set before rallying for his first career dual match win.
The focus shifted to No. 6 singles where William Parker would provide the clinching point for UNC. Parker seemed to specialize in these kinds of wins a season ago as he provided the fourth point in multiple dual matches. He did so again Sunday in come-from-behind fashion. Playing against Guignon, Parker lost the first set 7-5, captured the second 6-3 and then dominated the third set 6-1.
Boyajian and 24th-ranked Roy Kalmanovich were headed to a third set tiebreaker at No. 2 singles when that match was suspended.