CHAPEL HILL --- No. 1 North Carolina suffered its first dual match loss of the season Monday, falling to No. 2 Florida, 4-2, at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. Carolina took the doubles point with a thrilling tiebreak victory on court two but was unable to sustain the momentum, losing on four of six singles courts. Caroline Price was the lone singles winner on the day, scoring a straight-set victory on court five.
Florida (4-1) took the first doubles match of the day, as Lauren Embree and Sofie Oyen topped the No. 10 duo of Ashley Dai and Whitney Kay, 8-3. That meant Carolina (9-1) would need the other two courts, and it would take almost two hours to break the deadlock.
On court three, Lauren McHale and Tessa Lyons were in a back-and-fourth affair with Alex Cercone and Brianna Morgan. After six straight breaks, Florida held for a 7-6 lead. But the Tar Heel tandem played its best tennis of the match at the end, and McHale and Lyons won the final three games to take it, 9-7.
Zoe De Bruycker and Gina Suarez-Malaguti had a chance to clinch the point on court two with a match point at 7-6. But the Gator tandem of Danielle Collins and Olivia Janowicz fought it off and the two teams entered into a pair of marathon games. At 7-7, Florida spoiled multiple game points before breaking to take an 8-7 lead. After spoiling a Florida match point, De Bruycker hit a backhand winner down the line to force a tiebreak.
Neither team could gain any separation in the tiebreak until Suarez-Malaguti's winner clinched the tiebreak, 7-5, and gave Carolina the opening point.
Unfortunately for UNC, the Tar Heels were unble to take advantage of the doubles point, dropping the opening set on four of six courts to start singles. The three lower courts were all decided in straight sets, with Price first to finish on court five with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 44 Collins. Moments later, Janowicz defeated No. 79 Lyons on court six, 6-2, 6-1.
Florida evened the dual at 2 with Brianna Morgan's 6-1, 6-1 victory over McHale on court four, leaving the top three positions to decide the match.
All three matches featured split sets, and the Gators got up an early break on all three courts. In the top-10 showdown on court one, No. 4 Embree outlasted No. 7 Suarez-Malaguti, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. Court two proved to be the deciding match, with No. 9 Oyen topping No. 30 De Bruycker, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Kay trailed Cercone 5-4 in the final set on court three when the match was halted.
Carolina will open Atlantic Coast Conference play next Wednesday as the Tar Heels visit Wake Forest in Winston-Salem on Feb. 27 at 3 p.m.
No. 2 Florida 4, No. 1 North Carolina 2
1. Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen (UF) def. #10 Whitney Kay/Ashley Dai (NC), 8-3
2. Gina Suarez-Malaguti/Zoe De Bruycker (NC) def. Danielle Collins/Olivia Janowicz (UF), 9-8 (5)
3. Lauren McHale/Tessa Lyons (NC) def. Alexandra Cercone/Brianna Morgan (UF), 9-7
Order of finish: 1, 3, 2
1. #4 Lauren Embree (UF) def. #7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti (NC), 6-4, 1-6, 6-2
2. #9 Sofie Oyen (UF) def. #30 Zoe De Bruycker (NC), 3-6, 6-1, 6-3
3. #21 Whitney Kay (NC) vs. #116 Alexandra Cercone (UF), 4-6, 6-4, 4-5, unfinished
4. Brianna Morgan (UF) def. #122 Lauren McHale (NC), 6-1, 6-1
5. #31 Caroline Price (NC) def. #44 Danielle Collins (UF), 6-4, 6-2
6. Olivia Janowicz (UF) def. #79 Tessa Lyons (NC), 6-2, 6-1
Order of finish: 5, 6, 4, 1, 2