Tar Heel Tennis, Lacrosse Blossoming This Spring

Although surrounded by less hype and fanfare than their more famous basketball and football counterparts, UNC’s spring sports teams excel at the highest level year in and year out. 2015 is shaping up to be no exception.

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It’s the rackets and sticks that have been making the loudest noise in Chapel Hill these days.

Out on the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center courts, the Tar Heels are serving up a storm that is led by the ladies.

UNC Women's Tennis Star Jamie Loeb (UNC Athletics)

UNC women’s tennis star Jamie Loeb (UNC Athletics)

The No. 2 UNC women are fresh off an indoor national championship title and are now looking to sweep through the outdoor season. The Tar Heels are unblemished to date, sporting a 23-0 record overall and an 11-0 mark in ACC action.

Led by top 20 national singles players in sophomore duo Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter, head coach Brian Kalbas’ players are an imposing force to look at across the net.

Coach Kalbas recently eclipsed the 500-win mark in his career, but he credits the talent on the court for achieving that milestone.

“When you win that many matches, it’s because you have good players. They play well and make you look good,” Coach Kalbas says.

Loeb won an individual national title in her maiden season at Carolina, but has been met with more resistance in her second season. Tennis can be a streaky sport.

Coach Kalbas breaks down the strategy in one of Loeb’s most recent tough battles.

“Anytime the girl hit a really good shot, Jamie would cut it off and force her to hit another great shot. The girl wasn’t coming to the net very much. If Jamie would handle her pace, push her back and get on the offense herself, which she started to do in the second and third set – it was really impressive,” Coach Kalbas says.

As for the Tar Heel men, they’ve gone on more of an up-and-down ride this spring. Saddled with a 16-8 record and 5-3 mark in league play, UNC’s No. 2 singles player Ronnie Schneider says the key to postseason success will be getting all the Tar Heels back fully healthy.

Ronnie Schneider strikes a backhand (UNC Athletics)

Ronnie Schneider strikes a backhand (UNC Athletics)

“Our health is probably the most important thing for our team right now. When we put guys on the court, they’re playing well. It’s just that we’ve got to get our top six guys healthy. If we can get healthy now, by the time those two tournaments [ACC and NCAA] hit, we’ll be playing our best tennis,” Schneider says.

Out on the lacrosse field, head coach Joe Breschi has to be pleased with his men’s team thus far. The Tar Heels check in at No. 4 in the national polls and are coming off an impressive road win over No. 6 Virginia in Charlottesville.

Senior Jimmy Bitter, who scored two goals in the win over the Wahoos, says the composure of goalkeeper Kieran Burke gives UNC added confidence.

The men's lacrosse team will hope to repeat 2013's ACC title (Courtesy GoHeels.com)

The men’s lacrosse team will hope to repeat 2013’s ACC title (Courtesy GoHeels.com)

“Kieran Burke is an amazing goalie. No matter what point in the game it is, he’s always level-headed,” Bitter says.

Not to be outdone, the Tar Heel women’s lacrosse team is ranked No. 2 nationally and in search of a national title of their own this spring.

In UNC’s most recent win over fellow top-ten member Louisville, Molly Hendrick netted a career-high five goals to spur on the 18-5 rout of the Cardinals.

So the trees and bushes aren’t the only thing blossoming around Chapel Hill right now – so too are the national championship aspirations of Tar Heels on the tennis courts and lacrosse fields.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heel-tennis-lacrosse-blossoming-this-spring/

Overshadowed Spring Sports Share Same Lofty Goals

All eyes are generally fixed on the basketball hardwood this time of year in Chapel Hill, but a litany of other top-notch UNC sports programs are gearing up for their own chances at ACC and national glory.

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The No. 4 UNC women’s tennis team started off its dual match campaign with a pair of victories over in-state foes.

Last weekend, the Tar Heels decisively served past both Elon and Appalachian State, dropping only one match in the process.

The Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center will play host to one of the nation’s top players. Sophomore Jamie Loeb, currently ranked No. 8 in the nation in singles, spent much of her freshman year sitting atop the rankings after a superb 53-4 season individually.

UNC winning ITA Indoor National Title. (UNC Athletics)

UNC winning ITA Indoor National Title. (UNC Athletics)

After falling just short of a national championship in Athens, Georgia a year ago, the Tar Heels, armed with a deep and talented lineup that also includes No. 22 Caroline Price and No. 31 Hayley Carter, could go one better in 2015.

Head coach Brian Kalbas’ Carolina squad will return to action on Jan. 24-25 to face Minnesota and Boston College or LSU.

As for their male counterparts, they’ll be aiming for big things this year as well. The Tar Heel men start off their campaign in the No. 6 position nationally in the preseason rankings released just last week.

UNC returns five starters from last year’s record-breaking team that reached the NCAA quarterfinals. In addition, Carolina also welcomes back senior Esben Hess-Oleson, who sat out last season with an injury, but made significant contributions in previous years.

The Tar Heels return to the courts to open their regular season with home doubleheaders on Jan. 16 and 19.

On the lacrosse field, UNC will yet again be among the nation’s best.

The women’s team begins the year No. 2 in the preseason polls and leads a loaded field in the ACC with five league schools represented in the top seven of the rankings.

With a national championship the goal, it appears the Tar Heels may actually have the talent to do it, with ten UNC women earning spots on the 2015 Face-Off Yearbook preseason All-America team, published by Inside Lacrosse.

UNC Men's Lacrosse claimed the 2013 ACC Championship. (UNC Athletics)

UNC Men’s Lacrosse claimed the 2013 ACC Championship. (UNC Athletics)

As for the men’s lacrosse squad, they check in a few notches lower than the women, but not by much. The Tar Heels were voted as the sixth-best team in the NCAA by the nation’s coaches.

But Carolina will get its chance to prove if it should be placed higher with games against all of the top five-ranked teams looming on its schedule.

Coach Joe Breschi’s team opens its season Feb. 7 at home against Furman.

Although overshadowed by their more famous classmates on the basketball court, at a place like UNC, every sports program seemingly shares the same collective goal – to win a national championship.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/overshadowed-spring-sports-share-lofty-goals/

Tar Heel Sports Weekend A Mixed Bag

With the UNC football team enjoying a bye week this past weekend, other fall sports teams took center stage and experienced different results.

UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams says his team’s hard work in practice paid off last Friday night against Belmont Abbey.

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“Well we’re much more gifted naturally than that team was and we’ve been working pretty doggone hard in practice.  We’ve been getting after them a little bit and I thought in the first couple minutes we weren’t really in to it defensively and then we were really good defensively,” Coach Williams says.

Although Coach Williams was pleased with his team’s 112-34 win, he did see some room for improvement.

“We look like a Model-T Ford out there compared to how I want them to run.  That’s the reason I took those guys out, we had Nate (Britt) and Joel (James) out there and they looked like pedestrians that’s one of the reasons I jumped on them out there.  We need to run harder, we need to get out big guys running more.  It’s no where near where I want it to be but I think we’re going to get there,” Coach Williams says.

Sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks says the Tar Heels keep the atmosphere light in the locker room.

“(The team) is always together in the locker room playing games like ping-pong.  And then you have Joel (James) and Kennedy (Meeks) who are big goof-balls who keep the team laughing and together,” Hicks says.

Ping-pong is one of the team’s favorite ways to stay loose in the locker room but even in ping-pong the Tar Heels keep it competitive

“Marcus…J.P….we have tiers so tier one would be Marcus (Paige), J.P. (Tokoto) and Hoots (Coach Eric Hoots), that’s it,” Hicks says.

UNC volleyball head coach Joe Sagula was once again impressed by his team’s effort following a 3-0 victory over Virginia Tech Sunday.

“We got a lot of weapons and were able to use them all tonight,” Coach Sagula says.

UNC sophomore tennis player Brayden Schnur captured the USTA/ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championships Sunday with a 7-5, 7-6 win over Vanderbilt’s Gonzales Austin.

But not all Tar Heel athletes tasted success over the weekend.

The UNC women’s soccer team lost 2-0 to Virginia in the ACC Tournament semi-finals Friday night

The men’s soccer team lasted only two days longer as they fell 1-0 to Louisville in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals on Sunday.  Following the loss, senior forward Andy Craven says he realizes the regular season is over and that there are things to address before NCAA tournament play begins,

“If anything it was a good indication of where we need to be and what we need to work towards and to know that we haven’t arrived and we haven’t peaked yet.  As many goals we’ve scored it doesn’t matter, it’s playoffs now.  It’s important to maintain the good stuff we’ve done in the season and minimize the bad stuff,” Craven says.

Although not every Tar Heel was victorious over the weekend, the ultimate prize of a national championship is still within reach.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/mixed-bag-tar-heels-sports-weekend/

Tar Heel Brayden Schnur Qualifies For ATP’s Rogers Cup

Carolina men’s tennis player Brayden Schnur will be taking on the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic this week in Toronto.

Schnur, a sophomore at UNC, qualified for the Rogers Cup, an ATP masters series event, over the weekend with a pair of commanding straight-set wins over Japan’s Yuichi Sugita and Australia’s Matthew Ebden. The latter is ranked inside the top 100 in the world.

Brayden Schnur pumps himself up (UNC Athletics)

Brayden Schnur pumps himself up (UNC Athletics)

Schnur is currently ranked No. 609 in the ATP rankings, but that’s sure to change following the Rogers Cup.

Being a Canadian, himself, Schnur’s unlikely heroics in his home country are made all the more special. He says his dream is to play the game full-time professionally.

The 19-year-old enrolled at UNC in January and made quite a splash in his freshman campaign for the Tar Heels, who were knocked out in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Schnur will take on Italy’s Andrea Seppi, ranked No. 48 in the world, in the opening round. If Schnur is able to get past the crafty Italian, he could face a potential second-round meeting with American No. 1 and Greensboro native John Isner.

You can follow Schnur’s progress in the Rogers Cup at rogerscup.com.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heel-brayden-schnur-qualifies-atps-rogers-cup/

Former UNC All-American Nicholas Monroe Making Moves In Paris

Former North Carolina men’s tennis player Nicholas Monroe claimed a 6-3, 7-5 first round victory over Slovak Martin Klizan and Austrian Dominic Thiem alongside his doubles partner Simon Stadler Tuesday at the French Open in Paris.

The Chapel Hill resident and 2004 graduate of the University will now face the thirteenth-seeded pair of Dutchman Jean-Julian Rojer and Romanian Horia Tecau in the second round along with his playing partner.

Monroe turned professional in 2004 following graduation and is currently ranked 62 in the doubles world rankings.

The 32-year-old snagged his first ATP title in his career with Stadler at the 2013 Swedish Open.

While at UNC, Monroe earned All-American recognition and was named Carolina’s Senior Male Student-Athlete of the Year in 2004.

You can follow Monroe’s up-to-the-minute progress in the second grand slam of the year at rolandgarros.com.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/professional/former-unc-american-nicholas-monroe-making-moves-paris/

UNC Men’s Tennis Falls To OU In Final Eight

The seventh-ranked North Carolina men’s tennis team fell to second-ranked Oklahoma 4-2 Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals in Athens, Georgia.

The Tar Heels finished at 27-6 overall on the season, a school record for victories. The Sooners improved to 27-3 on the year and advanced to play in the semifinals Monday.

Carolina got off to a good start by grabbing the doubles point. No. 1 singles player Brayden Schnur also recorded an upset win in three tight sets over the fifth-ranked singles player in the country.

But ultimately, the Sooners proved too tough on the other singles courts. Oklahoma boasts four players ranked inside the top 55 in the national rankings.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes some individual competition. Carolina will be represented in the NCAA singles and doubles Championships, starting Wednesday. A pair of UNC freshmen, Brayden Schnur and Ronnie Schneider, will play in the singles tournament while Schnur will team with sophomore Brett Clark in the doubles tournament, due to begin on Thursday

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/mens-tennis-falls-ou-final-eight/

Athens Bound For Tar Heel Tennis In Sweet Sixteen Play

The North Carolina men’s and women’s tennis teams are both bound for Athens, Georgia for Sweet Sixteen action in the NCAA Tournament.

The seventh-ranked men, 26-5 on the season, advanced to the final sixteen with a 4-1 victory over South Carolina Sunday at Chapel Hill’s Cone-Kenfield Center. Carolina will face a stern test in Athens in the form of the eighth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Friday.

On their home courts, the Bulldogs will be an even tougher hurdle for Head Coach Sam Paul’s squad. Carolina will lean heavily two freshmen. Brayden Schnur, from Ontario, and Ronnie Schneider, from Indiana, were recently honored by the International Tennis Association.

Schnur was named ITA Carolina Region Rookie Player of the Year while Schneider was tapped as the ITA Carolina Region to Watch. Both are now eligible for national ITA awards.

The Tar Heel men are 7-11 all-time against the Bulldogs.

As for the women, the seventh-seeded Tar Heels, 26-5 on the season, booked their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen with a dominating 4-0 win over Georgia State last Saturday.

UNC now faces No. 10 Texas A&M Thursday on the courts of Athens.

As always, Carolina will depend on the reliability of the No.1 overall singles player in the nation, Jamie Loeb, and her fifth-ranked teammate, Hayley Carter.

Head Coach Brian Kalbas, however, says the Tar Heels will need to rely on their depth to ultimately progress further in the postseason.

“We’ve been really reliant on our top two players. Our two freshmen have been outstanding. For us to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, we’re going to need other players to step up,” Coach Kalbas says.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/athens-bound-tar-heel-tennis-sweet-sixteen-play/

UNC Men’s Tennis, Women’s Lax Advance In NCAAs

The UNC men’s tennis team beat South Carolina 4-1 on Sunday in Chapel Hill to move on to the NCAA Sweet 16.

With the win, the Tar Heels improved to 26-5 on the year, breaking the all-time team record for wins in a season set back in 1992 and tied in 2006. This marks Carolina’s eighth appearance in the Sweet Sixteen.

The seventh-ranked Tar Heels now head to Athens, Georgia, where they’ll face No. 8 Georgia on Friday at 4:00 p.m. The tenth-seeded Bulldogs are the host school for the rest of the tournament; they knocked UNC out of the tournament in 2012, the last time Carolina reached the Sweet Sixteen.

Elsewhere, the third-seeded UNC women’s lacrosse team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals with a 10-8 win over Georgetown on Sunday at Fetzer Field. Abbey Friend scored four goals to lead the way; she now has 195 goals in her career, surpassing the old school record of 192 set by Corey Donohoe.

Carolina will face Virginia in the quarterfinals next Saturday, also at Fetzer Field. The No. 11 Cavaliers reached the quarters with a 13-11 win over Princeton on Sunday.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-mens-tennis-womens-lax-advance-ncaas/

Carolina Tennis Teams Descending On Cary For Shots At ACC Glory

It will be a busy weekend for the tennis courts in Cary as the ACC schools target an ACC title after months of intense competition.

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The Tar Heel men’s squad has claimed a No. 3 seed in the bracket following a successful 22-4 campaign overall, including a 9-2 mark in conference action.

Carolina, afforded a bye in the first round, will open proceedings against the winner of Thursday’s match between No. 6 N.C. State and No. 11 Georgia Tech.

Carolina’s Ronnie Schneider will be one to watch on the courts this weekend for the men after an impressive conference run.

The Carolina women will go into the ACC Tournament as favorites for the title. The top-seeded Tar Heels are led by the No. 1 singles player in the nation, Jamie Loeb.

Loeb says she feels the team is coming together at just the right time.

“We did start off the season pretty high and have had some ups and downs, but now we’ve improved our unity in the team. I think we’ve found our identity,” Loeb says.

Loeb doesn’t hide the fact that her competitive fire burns, propelling her to play each and every match with intensity.

“I use that as motivation because I want to maintain my ranking. I don’t want to lose because I’m very competitive,” Loeb says.

2014 marks the second straight season Carolina has entered the final league tournament as the top-seeded team. The Tar Heels will take on the victor out of the match pitting No. 8 Florida State against No. 9 Syracuse.

Loeb is a hot favorite to win every time she strides out onto the court. All of her opponents would love to get a signature scalp, but Loeb says she relishes the opportunity to focus on the business on her own side of the net.

“I want it for myself. I try not to think of what everybody else is thinking or if they’re gunning for me or not. I just focus on what I need to do,” Loeb says.

The UNC women will be searching for their seventh ACC championship and first since 2011 when Loeb and the rest of the Tar Heels serve it up Friday.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-tennis-teams-descending-cary-shots-acc-glory/

Serving Up A Storm: Carolina Tennis, A Force To Be Reckoned With

Carolina is making some noise on the tennis courts in 2014. Both the men’s and women’s squads are aiming at ACC, and possibly even national titles.

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The No. 11 men’s team, 13-2 on the season, is coming off a 7-0 demolition of Longwood Monday evening.

Earlier in the day, the Tar Heels took down No. 7 Texas 4-3 in a huge showdown between national title hopefuls.

It was a successful doubleheader thanks to a pair of talented freshmen, Ronnie Schneider and Jack Murray. The two dropped only a single game in four sets between them and also teamed up for an 8-0 doubles win.

The men will again take the court on Friday against No. 19 N.C. State in Raleigh.

The Tar Heel women wrapped up a winning weekend with a 6-1 victory over Virginia Tech Sunday to improve to 13-2 on the season and 5-1 in ACC play.

Freshman sensation Jamie Loeb says she and teammate Hayley Carter both push the team to new heights.

“Both of us keep pushing each other and pushing the team itself. Everybody is willing to improve and look to be the best. I feel that’s really helping us,” Loeb says.

Loeb owns a remarkable 34-2 record on the year and is the reigning ACC Player of the Week.

Head Coach Brian Kalbas, however, says it’s Carolina’s team depth that will pay dividends this spring.

“We have tremendous depth throughout our lineup. We’re very fortunate and excited to be able to count on everybody or anybody at any point in time,” Coach Kalbas says.

The ladies are in action Wednesday down in Charleston, where they will serve it up against Appalachian State and the College of Charleston.

As the winter turns to spring, look for the action on the Carolina courts to continue to heat up.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/serving-storm-carolina-tennis-force-reckoned/