UT
Whitehead

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- No. 15 Texas (5-1) dropped the doubles point, but rallied behind five singles victories to post a 5-2 win at No. 17 North Carolina (2-3) on Sunday.

The win marks the Longhorns’ first victory against an ITA top-20 opponent since April of 2010, when Texas defeated then-No. 9 Baylor in Waco. The victory is Texas’ second against an ITA top-25 opponent in six matches this season.

The Horns’ only defeat thus far in 2012 came at the hands of No. 2 Virginia on Friday evening in Charlottesville, Va.  Notably, it was a youthful Longhorns singles lineup that lifted Texas to victory on Sunday against a seasoned team of Tar Heels. Texas started one junior, two sophomores and three freshmen against North Carolina’s lineup of two seniors, two juniors and two freshmen. Texas managed to turn the tables on the Tar Heels, who upset the then-No. 3 Longhorns by a 5-2 count last March in Austin.  

“Today was a real big test for us after the match on Friday,” Texas head coach Michael Center said. “We were trying to improve and learn from the mistakes we made at Virginia. We lost a tough doubles point and lost a lot of break-point opportunities there, but we just kept fighting and came out on top.”
           
Texas opened the doubles session with a win at the first slot, but the Tar Heels responded by claiming the matches at the remaining two possessions to take the doubles point and a 1-0 lead.  UT freshman Soren Hess-Olesen and junior Alex Hilliard had the opportunity to take on Hess-Olesen’s identical twin brother, UNC’s Esben Hess-Olesen, along with the Tar Heels’ Brennan Boyajian at first doubles.

Soren Hess-Olesen and Hilliard prevailed by an 8-3 count at first doubles before UNC’s Joey Burkhardt and Jose Hernandez emerged with an 8-5 victory against UT’s Chris Camillone and David Holiner at second doubles. The Tar Heels’ tandem of Cameron Ahari and Oystein Steiro defeated UT’s Joey Swaysland and Daniel Whitehead by an 8-6 count at third doubles to clinch the doubles point.

“You really want that doubles point to start that match, but at the end of the day, it’s just one point and there are still six points to be had in singles,” Center said. “I told the guys I thought the first sets would be big opportunities for us to turn around the momentum of the match.”

Texas responded quickly in singles play to even the match at one, as Whitehead overpowered UNC’s Boyajian by a 6-1, 6-2 count at second singles. The Tar Heels reclaimed the lead at sixth singles, where UNC’s William Parker notched a 6-3, 6-3 win against UT’s Swaysland. The Longhorns evened the tally at fifth singles, as Camillone registered a 6-4, 6-3 win against UNC’s Steiro.

The pivotal third point for Texas came from sophomore Sudanwa Sitaram, who outlasted UNC’s Esben Hess-Olesen 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (2) to give Texas the lead for good at 3-2.  As was the case with Sitaram, Texas’ Glasspool won his first set, dropped the second set and prevailed in the third set to come out with a victory. Glasspool finished off North Carolina’s Burkhardt 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 at fourth singles to clinch the Longhorns’ victory and stake Texas to a 4-2 lead.

“Lloyd was struggling a little out there, but he just rallied and played big points really well in the third set,” Center said.  “It was great to see him clinch another match for us.”

Texas’ Hess-Olesen gave the Horns a perfect 3-0 mark on the day in three-set matches. Hess-Olesen gutted out a 7-6 (4) opening-set win against UNC’s 30th-ranked Hernandez at first singles before dropping the second set, 7-5. Hess-Olesen finished off the Tar Heels’ All-American in the third set, 6-2 to mark the highest-ranked opponent to fall victim to the Danish freshman in his young Longhorn career.

“Soren was so determined and poised,” Center said. “I’m really proud of the way he’s maturing on and off the court.  He is handling himself professionally. [UNC’s Jose] Hernandez is one of the best players in college tennis, so this is a tremendous result for Soren.

“North Carolina had a nice, enthusiastic crowd, and UNC beat us at home last year,” Center said.  “To win on the road in a hostile environment after losing the doubles point speaks volumes to the character of this group.”