North Carolina earns quarterfinal berth with victory against Nebraska
URBANA, Ill. -- No. 2-seed North Carolina advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons Friday with a 4-1 win against No. 15-seed Nebraska at the University of Illinois' Atkins Tennis Center. Lauren McHale, Caroline Price and Kate Vialle were singles winners for the Tar Heels, who will face the winner of No. 7 UCLA and No. 10 Michigan in Sunday's quarters.
After losing the doubles point in two of their last three matches, the Tar Heels (28-3) came out of the gate firing on all cylinders against a Nebraska team that had lost the doubles point just twice in 2013. The No. 2 UNC doubles tandem of McHale and Ashley Dai set the tone quickly with an 8-2 victory against Stefanie Weinstein and Janine Weinreich. The Nebraska duo entered the match with an incredible 27-1 record in dual match play.
Carolina's Gina Suarez-Malaguti and Tessa Lyons then clinched the doubles point for the second-seeded Tar Heels moments later with an 8-3 victory against Maggy Lehmicke and Izabella Zgierska at the No. 3 position. Price and Whitney Kay looked poised to upset third-ranked Mary Weatherholt and Patricia Veresova when play was stopped, as they led 7-6 at the top of the lineup.
"That was probably the best doubles we've played in a while, all the way down the line," head coach Brian Kalbas said. "Nebraska is extremely tough, especially in doubles, and I thought we came out with a great approach. Ashley [Dai] really stepped up after sitting out last weekend and we were all happy to see her play so well."
UNC got the start it needed in singles, winning four of six first sets to retain control of the dual. But Nebraska (24-6) would not go quietly as the Huskers looked to extend their best season in program history.
Weinstein briefly tied the match at one with her 6-4, 6-1 victory against No. 39 Kay at the third position. The loss was just the fourth of the spring for Weinstein.
That tie would prove to be short-lived, however, as No. 46 Price put Carolina back in front with her win against Weinreich. After taking a tight first set in a tiebreak, Price closed out the match with a comprehensive second to win, 7-6 (2), 6-2, and improved to 22-2 on the spring.
One court over, McHale soon made it 3-1 courtesy of a near-perfect second-set tiebreak. She missed a chance to serve out the match up 5-4 in the second, but rolled to a 7-0 win in the breaker to score a 6-0, 7-6 (0) victory against Nebraska's Lehmicke.
"For Lauren [McHale] to come back and dominate the tiebreak the way she did gave us the boost we needed to keep pushing," Kalbas said. "There was a period in the middle of the match where I think we were waiting for them to roll over, but they competed hard and made it really close."
Vialle clinched the match for the Tar Heels with a 6-1, 6-3 over Zgierska to set off a celebration on the South Courts.
"The team was really excited to get it done [Friday]," Kalbas said. "They remembered the feeling of losing in the [Round of 16] last year and they aren't taking anything for granted."
On the top two courts, No. 7 Suarez-Malaguti was locked in a heavyweight battle with No. 11 Weatherholt while No. 49 De Bruycker rallied to split sets with Veresova.
"Zoe coming back and winning that second set was important," Kalbas said. "And Pichi was playing really well against an outstanding opponent."