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.
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.
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/
Carolina women’s tennis phenom Jamie Loeb is continuing her dominant form into her sophomore year at Chapel Hill. Most recently, Loeb collected some more hardware at the American Collegiate Invitational, held at the site of the U.S. Open.
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UNC All-American Loeb was thrilled to add the inaugural American Collegiate Invitational title to her ever-expanding trophy case last Saturday.
Loeb says the new tournament is a wonderful experience for top college players to get a taste of the U.S. Open experience at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
“I’m really excited and really proud to be the first one to win this tournament. It’s a great experience and awesome how they’ve provided this tournament for collegiate players, giving us more awareness and opportunities,” Loeb says.
The local product turned Tar Heel waltzed through the field without dropping a set and beat an in-conference ACC rival in Virginia junior Julia Elbaba in the final match.
But Loeb says the match was a difficult one, featuring a 7-5 first set that took over an hour to complete.
“In the first set, I was struggling a little bit. Physically, I was getting tired. The heat was getting to me a little bit. But I knew I had to power through. Overall, it was pretty tough for both of us,” Loeb says.
The Invitational included eight men and eight women selected from the best players from across the nation. The winners in both divisions are guaranteed a wild card into the qualifying draw of the 2015 U.S. Open.
Loeb has that to look forward to next summer, but for now, she’s just enjoying her latest achievement. She says it’s special to have so much support from family and friends.
“I’m so happy all my family, coaches and friends could be here. It was awesome having their support. The crowd got behind both of us. It was awesome in general. I’m really happy everyone was here,” Loeb says.
As for the Tar Heels, they’ll get their fall season underway this weekend in the Ranked +1 Tournament held at the Cary Tennis Park from Sept. 12-14.
With top-ranked Loeb and another four of her teammates all listed in the preseason ITA rankings, Carolina figures to have a legitimate chance for a run at a national championship that just eluded their grasp a year ago in a 4-3 loss to UCLA in the title match.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heel-jamie-loeb-claims-american-collegiate-invitational/
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/jamie-loeb-named-player-year/
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.
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/coach-brian-kalbas-building-powerhouse-tennis-program-chapel-hill/
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-tennis-stars-loeb-carter-progressing-ncaa-tourney/
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-comes-just-short-first-national-title-bruin-battle/
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.
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
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.
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-womens-tennis-reaches-final-four-defending-champs-await/
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/
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/7-carolina-womens-tennis-embarks-ncaa-title-quest/