Jamie Loeb Named Player Of The Year

North Carolina’s Jamie Loeb has been named the 2014 ITA National College Player of the Year, the ITA announced on Wednesday.

Loeb, a freshman, wrapped up an impressive season with a 53-4 singles record, including a 19-1 mark in the fall. Her 53 wins are the most in program history for the North Carolina women’s tennis program. The Ossining, New York, native won singles titles at the 2013 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships and Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships.

She has been ranked in the No. 1 spot in the ITA Division I National Singles Rankings since February 11, and is the first female from North Carolina to be the top-ranked singles player. Loeb was named an ITA All-America in both singles and doubles and is the 2014 ITA National Rookie of the Year.

Loeb led her team to a runner-up finish at the 2014 NCAA Team Championships, the first national championship match in program history.

UCLA’s Marcos Giron was named the Men’s National Player of the Year, while Alabama’s Erin Routliffe and Maya Jansen were named the ITA National Women’s Doubles Team of the Year, and Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese of Tennessee were honored on the men’s side.

The ITA College Player of the Year Awards are given to the male and female singles players who have had the most outstanding year in Division I college tennis. The collegiate players will be honored on Saturday, July 12 in Newport, RI at a special Awards Luncheon during the Rolex Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend, and immediately prior to the 2014 International Tennis Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony.


Coach Brian Kalbas Building Powerhouse Tennis Program At Chapel Hill

The record-setting 2013-2014 season for the national runner-up Carolina women’s tennis team has come to close, but with a youthful squad and an infusion of fresh incoming talent, the Tar Heels have a bright future.

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Head Coach Brian Kalbas cannot say enough positive things about the milestones recorded by his Tar Heels this season. And who can blame him? Carolina completed the NCAA Tournament run of its life.

“We had never beaten Stanford in our program’s history. They were defending champions. To beat Stanford the way we did it, was really monumental for our program. Getting to the finals was a first for us. When you look back on it, it was a truly special run to the finals for our team,” Coach Kalbas Says.

But Coach Kalbas knew he had the makings of a special team way back last fall. He says it just took the team a while to mesh and find its identity.

“I knew we had, especially at the beginning of the year, we had the ingredients of a special team. You just didn’t know when it was going to come together. I think it took a while for our team to find the niche between a talented freshman class and a senior class that had come through for us in the past,” Coach Kalbas says.

Once all the players grew comfortable in their positions on the squad and the team dynamics were settled, Carolina locked in and suddenly had the makings of a national championship contender. Coach Kalbas credits the late season surge to the spike in play at the bottom of the singles lineup from senior warriors like Tessa Lyons.

“At the end of the year, when it really mattered, the depth was a strength of ours – winning at No. 5 and No. 6 against UCLA. Every point in the NCAA Sweet 16, quarters, semis – we won some big matches at the bottom of our lineup,” Coach Kalbas says.

Carolina’s freshman sensation, Jamie Loeb, who was named the ITA’s top singles player of the year Wednesday, finished with a dominant 53-4 record this season.

But what’s even scarier for future Loeb opponents is that Coach Kalbas believes there are “a lot” of areas in her game that can improve.

“I think there is still a lot of motivation. She’s the kind of person that always wants to get better. There are a lot of areas in her game to get better. As a coaching staff and program, we feel we can do a lot of those things to make her a more complete player. That’s what’s really special about her -she has room to improve and has the desire and work ethic to do it,” Coach Kalbas says.

Coach Kalbas (UNC Athletics)

Coach Kalbas (UNC Athletics)

A strong incoming recruiting class, ranked No. 6 by TennisRecruiting.net, should only further enhance Carolina’s depth. Coach Kalbas says the program is on the upward swing.

“When you bring in those kinds of players with those kinds of aspirations, you have a strong, quality work ethic and professionalism like Jamie [Loeb] and Hayley [Carter] have given to our program this year. It’s really exciting what’s happening with our program right now,” Coach Kalbas says.

Next up for the Tar Heels is a summer of rehabilitation, regrouping and competition. Whitney Kay and Caroline Price are nursing some nagging injuries while Loeb is aiming to improve her ranking on the professional circuit.

But when the Tar Heels reconvene in the fall, Coach Kalbas and the Tar Heels will be primed to take it one step further in 2015 by hoisting up a national championship trophy.

“They can get back to 100 percent, physically. We can really build towards a strong year next year,” Coach Kalbas says.


UNC Tennis Stars Loeb, Carter Progressing In NCAA Tourney

UNC women’s tennis stars Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter are still making national noise on the courts of Athens, Georgia.

Fresh off a national runner-up finish in the team competition, two of the top singles competitors in the NCAA are progressing along nicely in the singles championship.

Top-seeded Loeb improved to 52-3 on the year with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Zoe Scandalis of USC Thursday in second round action.

Loeb will next take on Breaunna Addison of Texas Friday with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line. Addison will be a formidable challenge as she is one of only three players to beat Loeb this season.

As for No. 7 Carter, she also won in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 over Arizona State’s Desirae Krawczyk. Jenny Jullien of St. Mary’s will be her Friday challenger.


WTen Comes Up Just Short

The North Carolina women’s tennis team fell to UCLA in a 4-3 decision Tuesday afternoon in Athens, Georgia, coming up just short of the program’s first national championship.

With the defeat, the Tar Heels finished the season at 29-6. That mark serves as the best record in the program history for Head Coach Brian Kalbas’ squad.

Perhaps the shocker of the day was at No. 1 singles, where Carolina’s Jamie Loeb lost 6-2, 6-2 to UCLA’s Robin Anderson. Loeb’s 25-match winning streak was snapped to a player she had previously beaten twice last fall en route to individual tournament titles.

Despite the setback, the Tar Heels battled on to tie the match with straight set wins from Hayley Carter and Kate Vialle that tied the match at 2-2.

The match hinged on three final matches. Each of the courts was sent to a third set, but it was UNC’s Caroline Price who couldn’t hold on at court three, despite a valiant effort against Kyle McPhillips that saw her fight off three championship points.

When Price’s final forehand sailed long, UCLA earned its second national title.

Although the team championships are finished, individual glory is still at stake for many of the Tar Heels. Top seed Loeb, 50-2 on the year, will be looking to rebound from Tuesday’s disappointment while Carter will also feature in the singles draw.

Singles play begins Wednesday afternoon with doubles action starting up Thursday.


Tar Heel Women To Play For Program’s First National Title

The seventh-seeded North Carolina women’s tennis team, 29-5 on the season, defeated defending national champion Stanford 4-3 Monday afternoon in the Final Four and will now play for its first national championship against fifth-seeded UCLA on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

A spot in the finals came down to the singles match on court one between the Tar Heels’ top- ranked Jamie Loeb and Stanford’s third-ranked senior Kristie Ahn.

Ahn outlasted Loeb in the opening set, winning in a tiebreak 7-6. But Loeb rolled by Ahn from there, double-bageling her in the final two sets 6-0, 6-0 to clinch the overall match victory for the Tar Heels and send Carolina to their first title match in program history.

The doubles point proved crucial yet again for the Tar Heels as the early 1-0 lead was necessary for a UNC team that dropped three singles matches to square proceedings up at 3-3 with the Loeb-Ahn match serving as the decider.

No. 2 UNC singles player Hayley Carter continued her dominant play by dismissing Stanford’s Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 6-1.

Carter now sports an impressive 46-6 record while Loeb’s win was her 50th of the season. The freshman duo has propelled the Caroline team to new heights this season and now, they sit on the doorstep of the ultimate prize, a national title.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Women’s Semifinal: #7 NORTH CAROLINA (29-5) def. #11 STANFORD (20-3), 4-3 – McWhorter Courts

Doubles (Order of finish: 2,3,1)

1. #3 Jamie Loeb/Hayley Carter (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #10 Kristie Ahn/Carol Zhao (STANFORD), 8-5
2. #13 Whitney Kay/Caroline Price (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #50 Taylor Davidson/Ellen Tsay (STANFORD), 8-2
3. Caroline Doyle/Krista Hardebeck (STANFORD) def. Ashley Dai/Tessa Lyons (NORTH CAROLINA), 8-4

Singles (Order of finish: 2,4,3,6,5,1)

1. #1 Jamie Loeb (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #3 Kristie Ahn (STANFORD), 6-7(4), 6-0, 6-0
2. #5 Hayley Carter (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #51 Krista Hardebeck (STANFORD), 6-2, 6-1
3. #59 Caroline Price (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #21 Carol Zhao (STANFORD), 6-4, 6-4
4. #50 Taylor Davidson (STANFORD) def. Whitney Kay (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-3, 6-2
5. #54 Ellen Tsay (STANFORD) def. Kate Vialle (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-2, 7-6(4)
6. #57 Caroline Doyle (STANFORD) def. Tessa Lyons (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-2, 6-3



Carolina Women’s Tennis Reaches Final Four, Defending Champs Await

The seventh-seeded North Carolina women’s tennis team battled past second-seeded Alabama, claiming a 4-2 win Saturday in Athens, Georgia to advance to the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship Final Four.

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With the victory, the Tar Heels improved to 28-5 on the season while the Crimson Tide finished at 25-5 overall.

Freshman Jamie Loeb, the No.1-ranked singles player in the nation, as has become customary, took care of her opponent with ease, dispatching Mary Anne Daines 6-2, 6-3.

But it was Carolina’s No. 2 singles player, Hayley Carter, who ultimately clinched the match with a thrilling three-set win, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Watch Hayley Carter’s match-clinching point by clicking here.

Loeb says the team is aided by a fighting spirit in the ‘win or go home’ format of the NCAA Tournament.

“We showed up with a lot of passion and intensity, I think all of us really wanted it. We had a really good talk. I think that really motivated us,” Loeb says.

Carolina celebrates the NCAA quarterfinal victory! (GoHeels.com)

Carolina celebrates the NCAA quarterfinal victory! (GoHeels.com)

Head Coach Brian Kalbas says Tessa Lyons, at the No. 6 singles lot, certainly provided a positive boost to the team when she secured the opening set on her court.

Lyons says although the Tar Heels won an indoor national title last year, getting to the Final Four is its own special accomplishment.

“This is my first ever Final Four. We’ve won an indoor national championship, but this is a big prize,” Lyons says.

Carolina has earned a trip back to the Final Four for the first time since 2010. This year, they’ll be facing defending champion and eleventh-seeded Stanford on Monday at 1 p.m. The Cardinal sport a 20-2 record and are coming off an upset victory over the third-seeded Virginia Cavaliers.

The other national semifinal will pit two storied college tennis programs against each other as No. 4 UCLA meets No. 8 Florida.

One of the biggest storylines of Monday’s UNC-Stanford showdown will be on court one, where No.1 will meet No. 3. The singles match between No. 1 Loeb and No. 3 Kristie Ahn has the potential to set the tone for the day’s play. Ahn will be hoping to exact some revenge on Loeb this time around as the Carolina freshman took the pair’s only meeting last October.

Loeb will anchor the Tar Heel lineup with her trademark competitiveness and grit that few players have the tenacity to match. She says she’s learned to handle the pressure of being the player to beat every time she steps out onto the court.

“I’m used to playing under pressure. I just go out there and do what I need to do. I can’t really control certain things, but I just try to focus on myself and getting the job done,” Loeb says.

Despite the impressive run, Lyons says her team still has work left to do, especially with the defending champions next on deck. She fully expects another competitive fight.

“We can’t really celebrate. We got another match to play. We got to move on to the next match and get ready. I know it will be even tougher,” Lyons says.

Although Carolina comes into the Final Four with the least experience of the four programs, Coach Kalbas believes the doubles point could be the deciding factor. And that’s a specialty for the Tar Heels, who’ve only dropped four doubles points all year in 33 dual matches.


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.


No. 7 Carolina Women’s Tennis Embarks On NCAA Title Quest

The 24-5 North Carolina women’s tennis team has challenged itself with top-flight competition all year. Now, Head Coach Brian Kalbas and the Tar Heels are hoping it pays off with a deep NCAA Tournament run.

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The Tar Heel women have been serving up a storm all season long, but Coach Kalbas says he’s seen a lift in intensity since the loss to rival Duke in the ACC Tournament.

“We’ve had our most energetic time period from ACC to now through exams. Our team is really excited to host a regional,” Coach Kalbas says.

Despite the impressive record, Coach Kalbas says he was not expecting a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“We all got together for the selection show. I was really shocked that we got moved up to a seven seed,” Coach Kalbas says.

In hindsight, however, Coach Kalbas says it’s the strength of schedule that earned Carolina such a high national placement.

“I think the fact that we played such a tough schedule benefited us in the seedings. We beat the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed Georgia and the No. 3 seed Virginia. We try to play the toughest schedule possible. For us, we want to be playing our best tennis at the end of the year,” Coach Kalbas says.

The Tar Heels faced off with 13 teams that will compete in the NCAA Tournament this year. UNC finished with an 11-5 record in those matches including wins against eight of the 16 teams that grabbed national seeds.

The battle-tested Tar Heels will need to be on their A-game Friday at 1 p.m. when they meet 12-9 VCU in the first round. Coach Kalbas says the bracket gods didn’t deal his team any favors with the experienced Rams coming to Chapel Hill.

“Every time they’ve [VCU] made the NCAA Tournament, they’ve never been a four seed. They’ve always been either a two or three seed,” Coach Kalbas says.

There is no doubt the Tar Heels will lean heavily on their top two singles players. Jamie Loeb lands atop the national singles rankings while her teammate Hayley Carter is not too far behind at No. 5.

But Coach Kalbas says others will need to contribute if Carolina plans to be around in the latter rounds of the postseason.

“We’ve been really reliant on our top two players. Our top 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.

Carolina will be hosting a regional for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons. 13-12 Tennessee and 12-8 Georgia State will be joining the action on the courts at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center this weekend.

Coach Kalbas says he suspects his Tar Heels will be meeting a team decked out in orange in the second round.

“I expect Tennessee to win that match, and if we happen to move on, give us a really strong challenge,” Coach Kalbas says.


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.


No. 3 Carolina Women’s Tennis Soaring With Freshman Jamie Loeb

The North Carolina women’s tennis team has risen to No. 3 in the national collegiate rankings with a 22-3 overall mark and an 11-1 record in ACC action.

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The Tar Heels owe a lot of their success to freshman standout Jamie Loeb, now ranked the No. 1 singles player in the nation.

The Carolina women are serving up a storm these days. Last weekend, the Tar Heels easily dismissed league rival Maryland 6-1 to send the seniors out with a bang on Senior Day in Chapel Hill.

But it’s young freshman Loeb who has been stealing the spotlight this season. Loeb sports an incredible 43-2 singles record, including a perfect 11-0 mark in the ACC.

A tennis season can be somewhat of a grind, but Loeb says the team is really starting to find its form with each and every match thanks to some intelligent tactics.

“We’ve improved our unity in the team. I think we’ve found our identity and who we are. I think we’re putting that all together, taking care of our bodies and being smart,” Loeb says.

Loeb says the close-knit nature of the team really provides a great working environment for her to compete. Loeb says there is nothing like hearing her teammates voice their support while she’s battling it out in a match.

“We’re basically a family. We love each other so much. I think our closeness helps us on court as well. We’re out there pushing each other and cheering for each other after every point. It’s such a good feeling, especially for me, when I hear my teammates cheering for me,” Loeb says.

Earlier this week at The Rammys, the freshman sensation beat out a star-studded list of Carolina athletes including women’s basketball phenom Diamond DeShields, for the title of Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. Loeb says she was at a loss for words.

“It’s an honor for me to even be nominated for it. I was kind of shaking when I heard my name called,” Loeb says.

Loeb, though, is not alone near the top of the collegiate singles rankings. Her teammate, Hayley Carter, is ranked No. 6 nationally and regularly pairs with Loeb to form a dynamic doubles combo. Loeb says the two are good friends, but push each other on the court – keeping a competitive edge.

Coming into her rookie year, Loeb was once the hunter. Now, everybody is gunning for her. But she says she’s not letting any pressure get to her.

“I use it as  motivation to keep getting better and not look at it as pressure and feeling like I have to stay at No. 1. I don’t have to do it. I just want it,” Loeb says.

Postseason play is rapidly approaching. Loeb says the team is practicing with an even greater intensity these days with an ACC, and possibly even national title on the line.

“We’re practicing with a purpose. We know what we want to get done and what we need to improve on,” Loeb says.

But before the ACC Championship, the Tar Heels hit the road for a Southern swing. A Thursday afternoon meeting with Georgia Tech in Atlanta will be followed by a Saturday showdown with Clemson in South Carolina.