Wolverines fall to Tar Heels, 5-2, in second loss of season
The Michigan women’s tennis team and No. 2 North Carolina captivated an audience on Sunday at the Varsity Tennis Center with a rollercoaster match flooded with tiebreakers, momentum swings and everything in between. The Tar Heels defeated the Wolverines, 5-2, resulting in Michigan’s second loss of winter play.
Tar Heel Cameron Morra vaulted to a commanding 5-3 lead in the No. 4 singles match against junior Chiara Lommer. With her back against the wall, Lommer mounted an imposing comeback, tying the set at six off a cross-court winner. But the comeback fell short as Morra grinded out the final rally to take the tiebreaker, 7-3. Lommer was unable to overcome her first set defeat, yet maintained her relentless drive in a 6-1 losing effort in the second set, even after the Tar Heels clinched the match.
“We were pretty even and every single game was (decided by) one point here and there,” Lommer said. “This was a really big opportunity playing UNC, and I wanted to stay out there for everyone.”
Junior Giulia Pairone had a similarly turbulent No. 2 singles match against North Carolina’s Makenna Jones. Decisive groundstrokes earned Pairone an early 4-1 lead before Jones rattled off three straight games. Jones completed her comeback in a back-and-forth set, coming away with a 7-6, 8-6 tiebreaker victory. Pairone was unable to stall Jones’ positive momentum, falling 6-1 in the second set after an emphatic serve from Jones, the clinching point for UNC.
“Those girls especially do such a good job competing, and losing like that, it’s kind of deflating,” said Michigan assistant head coach Teryn Ashley-Fitch. “But you’ve got to figure out a way to keep going and keep the pressure on North Carolina.”
Senior Brienne Minor started off her No. 3 singles match against Tar Heel Alexa Graham, taking a 2-1 lead off a flawless winner down the line. But Minor’s lead was short-lived. Graham took the next three games, en route to a 6-4 first-set victory. Minor remained unfazed in the highly-contested second set, but it wasn’t enough, as Graham took the set 7-6, winning the tiebreaker, 7-3.
Sophomore Bella Lorenzini struggled against North Carolina’s Jessie Aney in their No. 6 singles match. Lorenzini’s net play was incapacitated by Aney’s perfectly executed passing shot, leading to a 6-0 Tar Heels first-set victory. Lorenzini’s adjustments came too late, falling 6-3 in the second set.
At No. 5 singles, sophomore Alyvia Jones initially struggled against Allie Sanford’s serve, falling behind 1-2. Jones responded by taking a crucial 3-2 break and never looked back on her way to a 6-3 first-set victory. Jones built on her momentum, jumping out to a 5-2 lead before forcing an error off a powerful forehand to take the second set, 6-3.
Senior Kate Fahey built on her illustrious career in her No. 1 singles victory over North Carolina’s Sara Daavettila. Fahey quickly had Daavettila running all over the court with perfectly-placed groundstrokes, earning an early 3-0 lead en route to a 6-1 victory. Fahey responded to Daavettila’s second-set adjustments, winning a pivotal, endless rally to take a 3-2 break before walking away with a 6-2 second set victory.
The Wolverines struggled against the Tar Heels’ fundamentally sound doubles play. Minor and Alyvia Jones lost their first four points at No. 2 doubles against Graham and Aney, setting up a 6-1 North Carolina victory.
Michigan’s No. 3 doubles Lommer and Lorenzini had their chances against Sanford and Daavettila, but were plagued by no-advantage scoring, losing two consecutive games at 40-40 and eventually fell, 6-3.
Fahey and Pairone were the lone victorious doubles team among the Wolverines. After building a 3-1 lead, the No. 1 doubles team found itself down, 0-40. Fahey and Pairone showed their sense of urgency, climbing all the way back to take the 4-1 break. The comeback was capped by a volley winner from Fahey after a seemingly eternal rally. Michigan led 5-2 before the match was abandoned.
“They really feed off each other’s energy,” Ashley-Fitch said. “Kate is really consistent and Julia has that fiery energy and ability to attack at net.”