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North Carolina Wins ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship
 

Tar Heels claim second title in three years 

 

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (Feb. 9) - The North Carolina Tar Heels are 2015 ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Champions after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs, 4-1, in Monday's final. It is the second championship at this event in Tar Heel program history, and the second in three years. The tournament was hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar's Head Sports Club.

Both teams entered doubles play today having won the doubles point in each of their previous three rounds. The match got off to a combative start in the early going as all three doubles courts went to decisive deuce points in the first game. While Georgia won the swing point and the opening game at No. 1 doubles, North Carolina prevailed at second and third. The Tar Heels would go on to close out sets at No. 2 and No. 3 nearly simultaneously with matching 6-2 scores and take a 1-0 match lead.

 

Ron Manilla, Tournament Director, Master Professional at Boar's Head Sports Club, hands the championship trophy to Caroline Price, who went 8-0 this week
North Carolina grabbed tighter control of the match by winning in straight sets - the only two straight set matches of the day - at second and fourth singles. Sophomore Hayley Carter endured an 18-shot deuce-point rally on match point to defeat Georgia freshman Ellen Perez, 6-3, 6-4 at second singles, while junior Whitney Kay finished shortly thereafter with a similar score over junior Silvia Garcia, 6-4, 6-3. The Tar Heels were up 3-0, and with five of six first sets in the bag, were appearing to cruise to the title.

 

But Georgia had other plans and settled into the match, stealing momentum on several courts. Finally, one tense hour after North Carolina scored its third point, the Bulldogs got on the board when sophomore Caroline Brinson tallied a 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 victory over junior Kate Vialle at No. 6 singles.

 

The lone first-set singles winner for Georgia was the quarterfinal and semifinal match-clinching heroine Hannah King, but the freshman split sets with junior Ashley Dai. Down 3-1 in the team match, Georgia was tasked with winning all three remaining third-set matches to win the title.

 

While King's match would go unfinished, sophomore Tar Heel Jamie Loeb and senior Lauren Herring had split on court one, and senior Caroline Price had split sets with Bulldog freshman Kennedy Shaffer moments earlier at third singles. 

Hayley Carter celebrates putting the Tar Heels up 2-0

 

Price, a tall lefty with a powerful forehand, dictated play against Shaffer in a 6-1 first set triumph.  Shaffer came out in the second set more vocal and animated, and she stormed to a decisive 6-2 set of her own. The assertive match play from both players met head on in the third set, in which the players traded service holds to 3-3. Shaffer scored the first break of the set and took a 4-3 lead, but Price broke back immediately after. Shaffer then broke for the second time in a row and took a 5-4 lead. She would serve for the match and Georgia's second point. On court one, Jamie Loeb had broken Lauren Herring twice for a 3-0 lead.

 

Serving for the championship on court three, Shaffer took a 40-30 lead in the game and had her first match point. When Price saved it, Shaffer's second opportunity to close came in a decisive deuce point. Price would steal it again, taking the break and evening the set at 5-5.

 

Price would hold for 6-5 and took the lead in Shaffer's service game. Down 15-40, Shaffer would save the first match point, but a five-point rally on the second match point ended with Shaffer netting a forehand, giving Price the clinching point in the 4-1 championship win for North Carolina.

 

The clinch was vindication for Price, who was on court in last year's NCAA Championship final when UCLA bested North Carolina 4-3. "I lost the national championship for us last year, it came down to my match," said Price about what she was thinking when she facing match points. "In my mind I was like, 'I'm a senior, I'm going to go for it because I've already lost it once.' I didn't want to go out losing and say I didn't try to go for it."

 

When Price was presented with two match points of her own two games later, her experience told her to leave it all on the court. "I was thinking 'Just get one point.' I was just trying to stay focused, calm, composed, and I just went for it." She converted and the Tar Heels are ITA Division I Women's Team Indoor National Champions.

Coach Brian Kalbas speaks to his the team after the win

Head coach Brian Kalbas congratulated his team afterwards for the poise and composure they showed in fighting Georgia's momentum shift. "They're just amazing fighters," said Kalbas. "It looked like we were in control and then Georgia turned it around and we were in trouble in some spots. You could see the momentum switching. Caroline, Jamie and everybody just kept fighting and I'm just real proud of the effort. Fourth day, everybody's tired. It's just amazing to see what people can do when they push themselves to the limit."

 

The Tar Heels not only won the tournament, they dominated it. North Carolina won four matches that finished no closer than 4-1. At a national tournament, the Tar Heels left no doubt about the quality of their lineup. "Today's match and yesterday's match, and even the Miami match, they were a little deceiving," said Kalbas. "The matches weren't that decisive. But I think we had a killer instinct this tournament. We knew what we wanted to do and we wanted to accomplish it. Some of these matches, to be 4-0, 4-1 instead of 4-2, 4-3, you have to have all six of your players competing at their highest level, mentally and physically, and we were able to do that."

 

North Carolina may have won the first national championship of the 2015 season, but with many more matches left to play, including an outdoor season and the NCAA Championships, the Tar Heels don't plan on losing their focus. "I think we're actually a better outdoor team, I'm hopeful that we can show that," said Kalbas. "This team is so motivated and this is only going to motivate us even more."

 

For complete coverage of the 2015 ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship, including access to draws, live scores and more, please visit the official ITA event page. Follow the ITA on Twitter, @ITAtennis, or like the ITA Facebook page for updates and news from Charlottesville. Use the hashtag #ITAIndoors for all tweets about the event, and search the term "ITAIndoors" to find others who are tweeting about the event.

 

About the ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championship

The ITA Division I National Women's Team Indoor Championships is held annually each February and has been held since 1988. The tournament features 16 participating teams: the 15 schools who won both of their matches during the 2015 ITA Kick-Off Weekend and the host school. The tournament is held over four days, and begins on Friday with first round play, followed by quarterfinals on Saturday, semifinals on Sunday and the final on Monday. This year's championship will be hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia from February 6-9. The defending women's champion is Duke University.

 

About the Boar's Head Sports Club

The 2015 ITA Women's National Team Indoor Championship will be held at the sports facility of The Boar's Head, recognized as a top 50 tennis resort in the United Stated by Tennis Magazine. The Boar's Head was also named the 2008 Private Facility of the Year by Racquet Sports Industry Magazine, while also receiving recognition from TennisResorts.com as one of the top 75 tennis resorts in the world. The facility contains a total of 26 courts: 10 Har-Tru outdoor courts, four outdoor hard courts, and 12 state-of-the-art DecoTurf indoor courts.