Tar Heels rally to send Longhorns to first loss of season

Wes Maulsby

As North Carolina rushed the courts, the team’s chant of “Tar! Heels!” could be heard echoing throughout the Penick-Allison Tennis Center on Tuesday. UNC came into the match against Texas needing a signature win, and it got one.

Texas had come into the match ranked No. 3 in the nation, but was unable to top the intensity that the No. 30 Tar Heels brought with them to Austin.

“North Carolina fought harder than we did. They deserved to win,” said Texas head coach Michael Center.

Trailing two points to three, Longhorn senior Ed Corrie’s rally in the third set fell short, sealing the win for the Tar Heels. After taking the first set 7-5, Corrie conceded the next four games to trail in the second before making a small push to lose 2-6. Corrie got out to another slow start in the third and trailed 5-2 before starting a comeback.

With North Carolina only needing one point to take the match, Corrie held serve to prolong the match. He tightened it further after breaking North Carolina’s Jose Hernandez to pull within 5-4, with a chance to serve top set up the tie breaker and keep Texas alive. Corrie was able to hold off the first match point but was unable to keep Hernandez from breaking his serve on match point two to give the Tar Heels the clinching fourth point.

Texas jumped out to a two-point lead after senior Kellen Damico won in straight sets for the third-consecutive match. Damico continues to be productive filling in the No. 2 spot with junior Jean Andersen out. He was able to burn through his entire point in less than an hour. The other point came from doubles as Texas was able to take two out of three games to claim the first point of the match. Though the Longhorns’ doubles game remains strong, having claimed all but one point, Texas’ singles play has been a letdown on multiple occasions. With each match being close across the board, North Carolina was able to close out when it needed to, allowing only two points to go to a third set.

With the exception of Damico’s, all of the matches were drawn out as Texas continued to try to get back into every match. Leading 2-0, North Carolina was able to wrap up three points almost all at the same time with Texas sophomore Daniel Whitehead and red-shirt freshman David Holiner both falling in straight sets, followed by fellow sophomore Vasko Mladenov losing in a second-set tie-breaker. With the match already sealed for North Carolina, freshman Sudanwa Sitaram was unable to close out with a one-set lead and a second-set tie-break to lose in the third.

“That’s disappointing because this team of ours has a lot of great competitors,” Center said. “But, tonight, North Carolina just wanted it more.”