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No. 4 Women’s tennis falters against No. 6 North Carolina, rebounds against No. 20 Duke

After the best start to conference play in program history, the Cavaliers have finally suffered an ACC loss

<p>Sophomore Annabelle Xu clinched Sunday's match against Duke for Virginia. Rallying from a 1-6 first-set loss, she won the third-set 6-4 to claim victory for her team.</p>

Sophomore Annabelle Xu clinched Sunday's match against Duke for Virginia. Rallying from a 1-6 first-set loss, she won the third-set 6-4 to claim victory for her team.

After remaining undefeated in ACC play for over a month, No. 4 Virginia women’s tennis suffered its first conference loss Friday at the hands of No. 6 North Carolina. Although the Cavaliers (18-3, 10-1 ACC) defeated the Tar Heels (16-3, 10-1 ACC) earlier this season at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, they faltered this weekend, losing 4-1, and lost sole possession of best conference record. However, Virginia bounced back quickly Sunday in another top-25 matchup, besting No. 20 Duke, 4-3. The Cavaliers were determined to grind out victory, defeating the Blue Devils (13-7, 6-5 ACC), despite multiple competitive tiebreakers.

Friday — Virginia 1, North Carolina 4

The Cavaliers opened up their loss against the Tar Heels strong with a doubles point victory. Although No. 12 juniors Melodie Collard and Elaine Chervinsky first lost 6-4 to senior Elizabeth Scotty and junior Carson Tanguilig, Virginia bounced back on court three where sophomore Annabelle Xu and senior Sara Ziodato defeated North Carolina’s graduate student Abbey Forbes and freshman Tatum Evans, 6-3. The Cavaliers clinched the point on court two where the No. 31 duo of graduate student Natasha Subhash and senior Hibah Shaikh bested seniors Fiona Crawley and Reilly Tran 6-4.

However, despite the promising start to the match, Virginia was unable to continue their momentum into singles play. The Cavaliers dropped four straight-set matches en route to North Carolina’s eventual victory.

On court one, No. 10 Crawley defeated No. 22 Shaikh in 6-1, 6-2 straight sets. No. 24 senior Anika Yarlagadda followed suit for the Tar Heels, beating No. 91 Chervinsky 6-3, 6-2. Unfortunately for Virginia, their luck did not change on court two, where No. 36 Scotty dominated No. 92 Xu, 6-3, 6-4. The disappointing outing from the Cavaliers concluded on court three, where No. 60 Tran defeated No. 59 Ziodato 6-4, 6-0.

After Friday’s loss, Virginia’s conference record is tied with North Carolina’s. The Cavaliers have more overall wins than the Tar Heels, but both squads have the same number of losses. With ACC play closing out next week, the Cavaliers will have to perform well to secure their spot at the top of conference rankings, as they are now 1-1 this season against the Tar Heels.

Sunday — Virginia 4, Duke 3

While Friday’s loss was surely disappointing to Virginia, the Cavaliers didn’t let that disappointment show Sunday, grinding out a gritty win against Duke for their fifth top-25 victory of the season.

In doubles competition, things got rolling slowly for Virginia. Xu and Ziodato were defeated on court three by Duke graduate students Brianna Shvets and Iuliia Bryzgalova in a 6-3 duel. However, Collard and Chervinsky righted the ship soon after, beating senior Katie Codd and freshman Shavit Kimchi, 6-4. Subhash and Shaikh clinched the point by defeating junior Emma Jackson and senior Karolina Berankova, 7-5.

The singles competition got off to a hot start for Virginia. Chervinsky dominated over Shvets 6-0, 6-1, and shortly after Shaikh beat No. 69 Kimchi in another straight-set victory, 6-3, 6-4 to make the score 3-0.

Duke battled back on court three. No. 88 Bryzgalova beat Ziodato 6-1, 6-4 to give the Blue Devils some life. Berankova pulled the score to 3-2 in a competitive match against Collard. Tied 2-2 in the first set, Berankova won four straight games to clinch the set. The second set included four deuce points and resulted in a tiebreaker, which Berankova won 10-8.

Despite this run from Duke, Virginia clinched the match when Xu beat No. 82 Jackson, coming back from a 1-6 first set. Xu won the second set 7-5, clinching the match for herself and her team in the third set, which she won 6-4 after it was tied at 4-4.

“I’m extremely proud of the resilience and grit of this team. They showed a lot of heart today…and I’m so grateful I get to coach such an amazing group of women who care so much about this team. Now it’s time for us to recover and get back to work to prepare for two matches at home this weekend,” Coach Sara O’Leary said.

Virginia will return home over the weekend, hosting No. 19 Miami Friday and Florida State for senior day Sunday to close out ACC play. Brackets for the ACC Championship will be released Sunday as well. 

Currently in sole possession of first place in the ACC, Virginia will be hoping for a strong performance in the tournament to cap off what has been a very strong season. They lost to North Carolina in the semi-finals of the ACC tournament last year, but hopefully, if they face them again, will pull from their victory earlier in the season to overcome the Tar Heels.

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