CHAPEL HILL --- No. 1 North Carolina notched its eighth win of the season over a top-25 opponent Saturday when the Tar Heels defeated No. 16 Clemson, 4-3, at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. After winning the doubles point, Carolina got singles wins from Gina Suarez-Malaguti, Lauren McHale and Caroline Price to seal the dual and keep pace with a host of teams with one Atlantic Coast Conference loss.
The Tar Heels (19-2, 5-1 ACC) were very solid in doubles for the second day in a row, getting wins on courts one and two to clinch the point. The duo of Price and Whitney Kay improved to 5-2 on the spring with a thorough 8-1 victory over Liz Jeukeng and Tristen Dewar on court one. Zoe De Bruycker and Ashley Dai then rallied from down 5-4 to win on court two, 8-6, and grab the early lead in the dual.
Clemson (9-6, 4-2 ACC) responded well in singles, however, winning the first set on three of six courts and threatening on a fourth. Price had to come back from a late deficit on court four to force a tiebreak against Romy Koelzer before winning the opening set, 7-6 (4).
It looked like the Tigers would even the match at 1 with a quick win on court three as No. 49 Beatrice Gumulya held three match points against No. 25 Whitney Kay up 6-1, 5-1. But the Alpharetta, Ga., freshman spoiled at least a half dozen match points and stayed on the court long enough for Carolina to pad its lead.
No. 9 Suarez-Malaguti was the first winner, taking care of No. 16 Yana Koroleva in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, on court one for her fifth top-20 win of 2012-13. The senior standout got down 3-0 in the second set before winning six of the final seven games to give UNC a 2-0 lead.
McHale was next off, as the senior scored a 6-2, 6-3 win over Dewar on court five to make it 3-0 in the dual.
Gumulya was finally able to put away Kay, 6-1, 6-3, but by that time Carolina was on the verge of the team win. Price raced out to a 5-1 lead in the second set against Koelzer and held on for a 7-6, 6-4 victory to clinch the match for the Tar Heels.
Clemson got the day's final two points as No. 42 Juekeng and Ani Miao were victorius on courts two and six, respectively.
Carolina now faces a crucial trip to the Sunshine State next weekend to take on No. 10 Miami and No. 20 Florida State. Saturday's win coupled with Duke's loss to Georgia Tech puts UNC in a crowd of four teams will one league loss. The Tar Heels will face Miami on Friday at 5 p.m. before travelling to Tallahassee to play FSU Sunday at noon.