Tar Heel Men’s Tennis Advances to Third Straight NCAA Quarterfinal

The UNC men’s tennis team isn’t ready to go home just yet.

Continuing the best season in program history, the No. 2 Tar Heels defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Now halfway home in their quest for the outdoor national championship–after winning the indoor title in February–UNC (28-4) also set a new school record with its 28th win.

It was also the third straight 4-0 win for the Tar Heels during the tournament, as they have yet to drop a single team point on their way to the quarterfinals.

Mississippi State (18-9) was able to win one of the three doubles sets, and even forced UNC’s team of Brayden Schnur and Jack Murray into a tiebreak.

The Tar Heels prevailed, however, and went on to cruise to a trio of straight-set victories in the singles portion of the event.

Brayden Schnur played a role in two of UNC's four team points on Friday. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Brayden Schnur played a role in two of UNC’s four team points on Friday. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Schnur, UNC’s top ranked player at No. 26 in the country, was the first to finish–getting a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 34 Mate Catura.

Soon after, No. 46 Brett Clark defeated No. 70 Nuno Borges 6-4, 6-4 for his 116th career singles victory as a Tar Heel.

Jack Murray then locked up UNC’s third consecutive trip to the NCAA quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win against Niclas Braun.

It was quite the response by a Tar Heel squad which saw their women’s counterparts–also among the favorites to bring home a championship–prematurely sent home on Thursday.

Up Next:

UNC returns to action on Sunday, May 22–facing off against the winner of USC and Georgia at 5 p.m.

Match Notes:

  • Schnur’s win over Catura was his seventh victory over a ranked opponent this season, second on UNC behind Ronnie Schneider’s nine such wins.
  • Robert Kelly, who has a 36-7 singles record for UNC this year, was not in the singles lineup Friday.





Start Time Announced for UNC-Georgia College Football Kickoff Game

Sure, there may be 109 days before college football season begins–but it’s never too early to get excited about it.

It was announced Tuesday morning that the Tar Heels’ battle with Georgia in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game on Sept. 3rd is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

So go ahead, start making tailgate plans. Plenty of storylines will be present in the Georgia Dome that night.

Junior Mitch Trubisky will make his debut as UNC’s starting quarterback while trying to pick up a signature victory for head coach Larry Fedora.

UNC and Georgia have met on 30 previous occasions--with the Bulldogs holding a 16-12-2 advantage. The 2016 meeting will be the first between the teams in 44 years. (UNC Athletics)

UNC and Georgia have met on 30 previous occasions–with the Bulldogs holding a 16-12-2 advantage. The 2016 meeting will be the first between the teams in 44 years. (UNC Athletics)

Defensively, the Tar Heels had the most improved defense in the nation under first-year coordinator Gene Chizik–but struggled to contain the running game as the season came to a close.

After losing a number of key leaders on defense, it’ll be interesting to see how Chizik chooses to try and stop Georgia’s star tailback, Nick Chubb.

Chubb will likely be making his return from a severe knee injury that ended his season in 2015.

Off the field, former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will be getting his first shot as Georgia’s head coach.

And last, but not least, the Tar Heels will also be looking to build up quality wins in the non-conference portion of its schedule.

Last season, UNC lost its opener to South Carolina–one of Georgia’s SEC rivals–while also playing North Carolina A&T and Delaware, two Football Championship Subdivision schools.

Despite winning 11 games in a row on the way to the ACC Coastal Division championship, many national analysts felt that the Tar Heels’ poor strength of schedule kept them out of consideration for the four-team college football playoff.

UNC will again play two FCS opponents–James Madison and The Citadel–in 2016, which makes defeating Georgia in the opener that much more important if the Tar Heels want to improve upon last season’s successes.


UNC-Asheville Stuns No. 13 UNC Baseball on Wild Final Play

No it wasn’t quite Villanova at the buzzer for the national championship, but the No. 13 UNC baseball team ran into some heartbreak of its own on Wednesday at Boshamer Stadium.

Despite having the bases loaded and just one out in the bottom of the ninth, the Tar Heels fell victim to a crazy, game-ending double play–losing 3-2 to the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs.

UNC is now 21-8 after picking up its first mid-week loss of the season. Asheville improves to just 8-22  with the win.

The Tar Heels played arguably the sloppiest game they’ve played all year, but were able to fight back to at least put themselves in position to win.

It just didn’t work out that way this time.

A simple miscue on the bases that UNC works on every day in practice allowed UNC-Asheville to shock the Tar Heels. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

A simple miscue on the bases that UNC works on every day in practice allowed UNC-Asheville to shock the Tar Heels. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Junior center fielder Tyler Ramirez hit a hard drive to center field in the game’s final at-bat that appeared as if it would at least score the tying run no matter what.

Problem is, UNC-Asheville’s Joe Tietjen made an incredible diving catch and UNC’s Brian Miller–who was halfway between second and third base at the time–didn’t quite get the memo.

Tietjen noticed Miller needed to tag up before he could advance so he quickly threw the ball in to second for the final out, ending the game right then and there.

“Baserunning 101,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said after the game, visibly frustrated. “We’re just trying to tie the game there. We’re not trying to win it, we were trying to tie it. Our kids know that.

“You just turn around and stand there [on second base],” the coach continued, when asked what Miller should have done. “It’s an easy read, we practice it every single day. If he catches it, go back to second base, we score and tie the game. If he doesn’t run to third and make him make a play.””

Had Miller not been thrown out, UNC would have had its hottest hitter in recent games–shortstop Logan Warmoth–at the plate with a chance to win it.

The team’s fastest player and leader in stolen bases, Miller decided he wanted to try and take care of business a bit earlier.

“I thought it was in the gap,” Miller said. “I was trying to score, but I just made the wrong read too quick and it cost us.”

All this late-inning drama was only possible because the Tar Heels found themselves in a 3-0 hole by the bottom of the sixth inning.

Shortstop Logan Warmoth was left hanging in the on-deck circle when the game ended abruptly. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Shortstop Logan Warmoth was left hanging in the on-deck circle when the game ended abruptly. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

That happened because offensively UNC was unable to get anything going, recording just six hits on the day.

The only two runs the Tar Heels scored came following a trio of walks in the bottom of the sixth inning.

With the bases loaded and one out, Warmoth hit a sacrifice fly. Then freshman Brandon Riley doubled home another run before Adam Pate flew out–ending the only threat the Tar Heels put together before the final sequence.

“It’s a hard skill,” Fox said. “We have a sign on our board [in the locker room] that says, ‘Hitting is the most difficult skill in sport, therefore don’t rely on it to win.

“I probably need to go take that down, because they’re taking it a little too far,” he added.

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will host Virginia Tech at Boshamer Stadium this weekend for their three-game ACC series. First pitch on Friday is set for 7 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Brian Miller originally committed to UNC-Asheville before deciding to walk-on in Chapel Hill last year as a freshman.
  • Warmoth led the Tar Heel bats by going 2-for-3 for the second straight day–the only UNC player to have more than a single hit.
  • Freshman Rodney Hutchison started on the mound for the Tar Heels, tossing three innings of four-hit ball. He was replaced by AJ Bogucki after allowing an unearned run in the fourth.





Benton and the Bats Lead Diamond Heels Past UNC-Asheville

Returning to action after a six day break for final exams, Benton Moss put together his second straight terrific start, and the Tar Heel bats came alive early, to lead the No. 24 UNC baseball team to an impressive 11-2 win over the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday night.

The senior from Enfield, North Carolina improved to 7-0 on the season, delivering five strong innings of one-run ball to move the Tar Heels to 30-16 so far this year, while dropping Asheville to 20-27, as the teams begin the final month of the regular season.

In his last start on April 26th at home against Boston College, Moss tossed eight shutout innings, and surrendered just two hits on his way to the victory.

Joe Dudek had three RBI on Tuesday to lead the Tar Heels' early offensive outburst. (UNC Athletics)

Joe Dudek had three RBI on Tuesday to lead the Tar Heels’ early offensive outburst. (UNC Athletics)

He retired the first nine Bulldog hitters he faced in this game, and found trouble just once–in the top of the fourth inning, when the first three men up all reached base, capped by a run-scoring single from center-fielder Joe Tietjen.

After a scoreless fifth inning from Moss, Tar Heel head coach Mike Fox decided to make the switch to sophomore reliever AJ Bogucki to begin the sixth, despite the senior having thrown just 64 pitches, likely in an effort to preserve him for a second start this week on Sunday at Notre Dame.

Entering the stretch run, it’s been well-documented that the pitching from Moss and his starting counter-parts has carried UNC this season, but on Tuesday the right-hander got some much-needed support from his hitters as well.

“I thought we had some opportunities when we bunted some, which was kind of our goal tonight, to try to get some runs early,” says head coach Mike Fox, “It was nice to score early, kind of take a deep breath, and then get some other guys on the mound.”

Carolina’s heavily maligned offense capitalized against an Asheville team which entered Tuesday’s match-up with a sky-high team pitching ERA of 6.23, giving Moss an six run lead through just three innings, scoring three runs in both the second and third innings.

The surge began when freshman shortstop Logan Warmoth laid a fantastic bunt down the first base line, allowing catcher Korey Dunbar to come home and score the first run before a play could be made.

Teammates cheer the offense on from the dugout. (UNC Athletics)

Teammates cheer the offense on from the dugout. (UNC Athletics)

Warmoth and designated hitter Adam Pate then executed a double steal, taking second and third base from Asheville left-handed starter Lucas Clarke (4-7)–still with no outs in the inning. UNC followed up with an RBI groundout from Joe Dudek and a sacrifice fly by Alex Raburn, which scored Warmoth and Pate.

More of the same ensued in the third for the Tar Heels, as Dunbar and Pate each scored for a second time on Dudek’s two-run single–giving Dudek three RBI in the first three frames–before Alex Raburn got his second RBI of the day when his base-hit scored Dudek.

“We didn’t really worry about the [Asheville pitching] numbers so much,” says Dudek, “I think we were all itching to play after a week [off]….We know this is an important stretch for us right here. We realize the urgency for all these games.”

“We just played aggressive tonight and it worked out well.”

Action cooled down after Asheville scored their run in the top of the fourth, with neither team able to manufacture anything else until the top of the eighth inning when the Bulldogs broke through against AJ Bogucki for their second run of the night–coming by way of an RBI single from first baseman Hunter Bryant.

Not risking any funny business, Coach Fox turned to his bullpen workhorse, senior Trevor Kelley, to come on and escape the inning without any more damage being done.

And he would do just that, earning the final out of the eighth to keep the Bulldogs from shrinking their deficit any more.

In addition, the Carolina offense tacked on an additional five runs in the bottom of the eighth to make sure the lead was out of reach for freshman reliever Brett Daniels, who worked a scoreless ninth to complete the dominant Tar Heel team effort, and end the misery for Asheville.

All in all, Moss, one of team’s two senior leaders, says he was happy to see his team score as much as they did playing their style of baseball–with all 11 runs coming without the luxury of a single long-ball.

“Coaches have talked a lot to us about how we’re not gonna go up there and every one of our batters hit home runs. We’re a team where we’re gonna manufacture runs,” Moss says, “And it was good to see that we’re moving the ball, we’re putting it into play in the right places, bunting when we need to….and getting dudes to the next base.”

Up Next:

Another mid-week home game at Boshamer Stadium awaits the Diamond Heels tomorrow, as they’ll host the Elon Phoenix on Wednesday night with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • All nine hitters in the Tar Heel starting lineup got a chance to bat in the second inning.
  • While Coach Fox has criticized his team for failing to hit well with runners in scoring position, the Tar Heels went 7-15 (.467) in that situation on Tuesday.
  • Hunter Bryant, Asheville’s power hitting first baseman, came into the game with 11 home runs, and went 2-4 with an RBI in this game.
  • Trevor Kelley became just the eighth Tar Heel to make 100 career relief appearances in a Carolina uniform when he entered the game in the top of the eighth. For the season, he now has pitched in 33 of UNC’s 46 games.



UNC Baseball Hosts UNC-Asheville

With the final two weeks of the college baseball regular season on the horizon, the No. 24 UNC baseball team resumes its quest for Omaha on Tuesday—welcoming the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs to Chapel Hill for a game at Boshamer Stadium.

The Tar Heels come into the game with a 29-16 record, and have won 12 of their last 15 games during a recent hot streak, while the Bulldogs have struggled this season, currently sitting at 20-26 in 2015.

Despite having struggled offensively for a good portion of the season, UNC should have a prime opportunity to get the bats going in this game, as Asheville has a sky-high team ERA of 6.23 this year.

Look for a pair of UNC juniors to try and put some runs up on the board early, catcher Korey Dunbar and center-fielder Skye Bolt, who each have six home runs this year—good enough to share the team lead at this point in the season.

On the other side, any pitcher the Tar Heels send to the mound will have to pay special attention to powerful Bulldog first baseman Hunter Bryant. His 11 home runs this year are close to as many as Bolt and Dunbar combined.

The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and if there’s one thing anyone can predict—it should be a slugfest, with a few baseballs potentially leaving the park.


Carolina, Georgia To Renew Old Rivalry In 2016 Opener

The North Carolina football team will open its season against a tough SEC foe for two straight seasons at a neutral site.

After facing off with rival South Carolina to open the 2015 season in Charlotte, the Tar Heels will make a return trip to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Bulldogs for the 2016 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

UNC took on LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game back in 2010.

The 2016 Georgia Dome showdown will kick off on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Georgia and North Carolina will renew an old rivalry, having met 30 times since 1895 with the Bulldogs winning the last contest 7-3 in 1971. Overall, Georgia sports a 16-12-2 edge in the head-to-head series.


Tar Heels Begin Battle 4 Atlantis, Face Bulldogs

The No. 5 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 3-0 on the season, embarks on its quest for a Battle 4 Atlantis tournament title Wednesday at high noon when the Tar Heels take on the 3-0 Butler Bulldogs.

***Listen to the story***

The Tar Heels join a stacked field in what UNC head coach Roy Williams says is the premier early-season tournament this year.

Two Final Four teams from last season, Florida and Wisconsin, could stand in the way of UNC in the Bahamas.

But Coach Williams says for now, he’s focused on the feisty Bulldogs, who defeated the Tar Heels 82-71 in the Maui Invitational semifinals back in 2012.

Coach Williams reacts (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams reacts (Todd Melet)

“We’re 3-0, we’ve done some good things, and we know we’ve got to get a heck of a lot better. We’re a different team. They’re [Butler] a different team. But there are some guys that were around when they beat us by 88 points or something like that the last time we played them. I remember that. It’s a wonderful tournament. Looking at all the tournament fields, I think it’s the best field of any of the preseason tournaments. It’s a big-time challenge for us,” Coach Williams says.

Junior guard Marcus Paige says the team’s balance gives the Tar Heels an edge on the competition.

“With that type of balance and our defense as hungry, alert and aggressive as it was today [vs. Davidson], I would expect to have a bunch of guys in double figures on any given night,” Paige says.

One of those UNC players in search of a breakout season is sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks. He’s off to a promising start. Meeks tallied 19 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Davidson.

Meeks says he’s been getting some advice from former Tar Heel and fellow big man, Sean May.

“I talk to him all the time. He tells me about having soft hands, looking at the ball all the way through, being aggressive on offense and also getting down in a defensive stance for the entire game. He’s really been a good asset to my life,” Meeks says.

Paige has noticed a major difference in the impact of Meeks and junior forward Brice Johnson, who’ve both reshaped their bodies to withstand the physicality of ACC basketball.


Brice Johnson has bulked up for this year's basketball campaign (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson has bulked up for this year’s basketball campaign (Todd Melet)

“You can see they’re really skilled. Brice has upped his weight and is more of a physical presence. Kennedy shed his weight. They both had that skill set even last year, so now they’re able to utilize it more with more minutes and a bigger role in our offense. It’s great to have,” Paige says.

So far, Paige has been happy to take a backseat in the scoring. He says he understands the best Roy Williams teams always look to dominate inside first.

“When we have big guys as skilled and talented as them that are ready to handle the rigors of playing top-quality opponents with their bodies now we can play inside out. That’s always how Coach Williams’ best teams have played,” Paige says.

The Tar Heels will need to watch out for Bulldog Kelan Martin, who scored 23 points off the bench on 9 for 13 shooting in Butler’s most recent 80-39 thrashing of Loyola (Md.).

UNC is tied 2-2 with Butler in the all-time head-to-head series and will be hoping to tip the scales in its favor when the two schools collide at Imperial Arena Wednesday.


Roy Williams’ Stolen Vacation

Scanning his closet for the perfect Caribbean-themed floral shirt, North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams could not help but mutter under his breath. “Aw shucks,” and “gosh darn” were just a few of the obscenities mumbled by the coach as he prepared for his team’s Thanksgiving getaway to the Bahamas.

Call it a tropical vacation if you like, but the schedule makers clearly were not too concerned about Coach Williams’ personal relaxation time. The Tar Heels will play against a loaded field in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Paradise Island in Nassau. Half of last year’s Final Four (Florida, Wisconsin) plus four other teams that were in the NCAA tournament (including the Heels) will slug it out for the right to be called champions of Atlantis.

In order to rule a kingdom that sits entirely underwater, you would need a lot of power. Luckily for UNC, they have had plenty of power down on the low blocks three games in. Statistics have them as the 4th most prolific rebounding team in the country, with close to fifty a game. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson have materialized as an awesome tag team in the post, as the team’s two leading scorers and rebounders thus far (Meeks- 16.7 points, 11 boards, Johnson- 14.7 points, 7.7 boards). Each is also shooting above sixty percent for the young season.

Battle 4 Atlantis bracket

The big men will be critical in an opening round matchup against perennial over-achievers Butler. The Bulldogs, known for their scrappy team defense and shooting, will come out firing, but it will be essential for Carolina to exploit their massive size advantage early. To give this matchup a visual perspective, Meeks at 6’9”, 270 pounds, will likely be defended by their senior forward, Kameron Woods, who stands the same 6’9” but carries a meager 200 pounds. Meeks should be able to feast on Woods and lead the Tar Heels into their Thanksgiving game on a high note.

With an opening win, Turkey Day could have UNC facing off against the winner of 22nd ranked UCLA and Oklahoma, each a tournament team a year ago. The Sooners have started off slowly, already taking a loss in their second game of the season to Creighton. The Bruins, on the other hand, are breaking scoreboards with an offense that boasts two twenty-point scorers (Norman Powell, Bryce Alford) and arrives in Nassau 5th in the country with 95.3 points per game.

Should the Heels face off with UCLA, point guard Marcus Paige’s shots are going to have to start falling at a rate higher than 38 percent, especially if the game turns into the fast-paced track meet many expect. Key contributions from freshman wing Justin Jackson may also be an X-factor in this potential matchup. Not only has Jackson shown he can score efficiently (13.3 PPG, 63% shooting), but his rangy 6’8” wingspan could give the 6’4” Powell and 6’3” Alford some trouble defensively as well.

Justin Jackson (Charlotte Observer)

Justin Jackson (Charlotte Observer)

On the other half of the bracket, 18th ranked Florida takes on Georgetown in what could be a tough game for the Gators, who will potentially be missing two key starters due to injury. The other quarterfinal features the Badgers and their senior All-American forward, Frank Kaminsky, rolling through UAB and a short-handed Florida team, straight to the title game for what could be a battle of epic proportions with the Tar Heels.

Of all the teams in the bracket, the Wisconsin Badgers were surely the squad that caught ol’ Roy’s attention the most. Coach Williams works long and hard; you can’t blame the man if he wants to enjoy a nice vacation at a place called “Paradise Island.” The problem is that Wisconsin makes that impossible. There is no paradise to be found when trying to game plan for a Badger team that is blowing teams out with ruthless efficiency, shooting over fifty-two percent AS A TEAM, validating last year’s final four march.

Led by Kaminsky, the seven-foot Player of the Year candidate, Wisconsin is off to a 4-0 start with the closest of those games being a twenty-four point nail-biter against Boise State. The Heels will have to find a way to guard the big man, who can star inside or outside depending on how he feels. If he sees Brice Johnson, he may try to use his height inside. If it’s Kennedy Meeks on Kaminsky, look for Frank to take the slower Meeks out on the perimeter, where he shoots the three ball at forty-three percent.

Wisconsin All-American Frank Kaminsky (Milwaukee Sentinal-Journal)

Wisconsin All-American Frank Kaminsky (Milwaukee Sentinal-Journal)

If Carolina can continue to rebound and share the ball like they have to start the season, there is a real chance for them to be crowned Kings of Atlantis, but it cannot be overstated how tough the road is ahead of them. Call this tournament a measuring stick, because it will be the first chance against elite quality competition for this team to show its growth.

Winning in the Bahamas would prove to doubters that this squad does indeed have enough talent to compete for a national championship. Losing would not be the end of the world. Just don’t be surprised if Roy ends up in his famous squatted position, screaming like crazy, and pulling a few hairs out along the way.

Fun Fact: The games are being played at the Imperial Arena, a grand ballroom normally used for weddings and events. A temporary court and seats are put into place just for this tournament.


Tar Heels Trounce Runnin’ Bulldogs 7-2

The North Carolina baseball team downed Gardner-Webb 7-2 Tuesday night to improve to 31-21 on the season and improve chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

With the loss, the Runnin’ Bulldogs dropped to 23-27 on the season. UNC starting pitcher Taylore Cherry had a lot to do with it. Cherry tossed six shutout innings to stymie the Bulldog bats.

Skye Bolt slammed his second home run of the year to propel the Tar Heels to the victory at Shelby High Schools Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium.

More good news for Carolina came in the form of Wood Myers returning to the lineup after a broken hand on April 25 in the Virginia Tech series. He rebounded nicely with a pair of hits and an RBI.

In total, the UNC offense exploded for 16 hits against a bevy of Gardner-Webb pitchers. The Tar Heels are now 17-2 when scoring at least six runs.

Carolina will now head to Florida Wednesday in advance of a three-game series at Miami starting Thursday. Thursday night’s opener is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be available courtesy of ESPN3 on WatchESPN.com.



Diamond Heels Cruise Past Gardner Webb 7-1, Face Terps in Weekend Series

The No. 13 North Carolina baseball team cruised past Gardner Webb 7-1 at Boshamer Stadium Wednesday to improve to 12-4 on the season.

With the loss, the Bulldogs dropped to a 6-10 overall record on the year.

Luis Paula delivered a gem on the mound for Carolina, striking out nine batters over six innings.

The offense was in fine form as well as Alex Raburn smacked his first career home run for the Tar Heels. Korey Dunbar’s early double gave UNC the 3-0 lead. Head Coach Mike Fox’s squad never looked back from there.

Henry Sisson, a sophomore transfer from Davidson, made his first career appearance as a Tar Heel and struck out the only batter he took on.

This weekend, the Tar Heels return to ACC action with a three-game road trip at College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins. Game one on Friday will start at 6:30 p.m.