No. 20 Pack men’s tennis falls 4-3 to rivals UNC in tense season finale | Sports

The No. 20 NC State men’s tennis team came up just short in a thrilling match against No. 18 UNC-Chapel Hill, losing 4-3 to its rivals on senior day.

The last match of the season for the Pack brought the Tar Heels to town, and while the two sides were deadlocked for almost the entire match, it was UNC who came out on top. Finishing the regular season at 17-8 overall and 6-6 in conference play, the Pack went blow for blow with the Heels. Despite NC State’s defeat, the Wolfpack continued to display some of its best tennis all season long.

“You know, it was a classic college tennis match with two rival schools in that regard,” said head coach Kyle Spencer. “It didn’t go our way but I thought UNC played well in some really close situations, so give them credit. Disappointed for the guys because I know they really wanted that. ”

NC State started the match off strong by winning the doubles round. The No. 58 duo of junior Martins Rocens and freshman Fons Van Sambeek handily defeated UNC’s No. 8 ranked doubles pairing on court one. The Wolfpack’s pairing on court, redshirt freshman Braden Shick and graduate Collin Shick, secured the doubles point with a 6-3 win.

The Pack held its 1-0 lead for a majority of the singles round due to close, tightly contested matches on every court. The round included four three-set matches and two tiebreaks as well as long and competitive points in every matchup, creating a tense match from the beginning to the end.

After a long break in scoring, it was UNC who took the first singles match as Rocens was defeated in two sets. After falling short in his first set tiebreak, the junior’s Tar Heel opponent won the next six games despite Rocens ’efforts to prevent otherwise.

At 1-1, NC State was next to claim a singles match when Staeheli won court three in three sets. While Staeheli had a momentum-stopping second set loss, he cruised through his first and third sets, winning 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 to put the Pack up 2-1.

The Pack’s final singles point came from freshman Damien Salvestre, who has been able to consistently deliver in big matches all season. Salvestre won in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4, and while his opponent made the freshman work for it, Salvestre delivered an impressive and energized performance to put NC State into clinch position at 3-1.

Despite Pack’s early singles success, UNC went on to win the three remaining singles matches starting with an NC State loss on court four, where No. 101 Catry fell in three sets. Shortly after, No. 116 senior Rafa Izquierdo Luque also lost in three sets, evening up the match score at 3-3.

Van Sambeek and his Tar Heel opponent battled it out on court six to decide the match. The freshman won his second set to force a decisive third set after all other matches had finished. With both teams watching, the two fought for possession of the deciding third set, but Van Sambeek’s opponent was able to pull away and win the final set 6-2, finishing UNC’s victory.

The Pack celebrated senior day after the match, honoring three stalwarts of the team that have been instrumental in creating and cultivating a winning culture over the past few years. Those players included Collin Shick, Izquierdo Luque and senior Yannai Barkai.

“Number one, forget about the tennis part, but just three incredible people, along with [redshirt senior] Joe Schrader, who we honored last year, four incredible people come from four incredible families, ”Spencer said. “Each one of those guys really dedicated themselves to not only their craft, but the team bonding, the team culture changing, something that before they came didn’t seem to exist, and making it their own.”

This team will look to carry that culture and chemistry into the incoming postseason. With the ACC Championships next up for the Pack, this squad hopes to continue its strong form displayed at the end of the season into the tournament.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Spencer said. “I think we’re playing a good level of tennis. I think we’re super competitive. Our guys love to play as I always say and they’ll be up for that. They’re really excited. ”

The ACC Championships will begin Wednesday, April 20 in Rome, Georgia. The Wolfpack will face Virginia Tech on April 21 at 12:30 pm after earning the six seed in the tournament.

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