URBANA, Ill. --- No. 2 North Carolina saw its NCAA run come to an end Sunday as the Tar Heels fell to seventh-seeded UCLA, 4-1, at the Atkins Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Illinois. Carolina ran out to an early lead thanks to a pair of dominant doubles wins before the Bruins rallied to take four singles matches.
For the second match in a row, Carolina (28-4) played one of its best doubles points of the year to take a 1-0 lead. On court one, No. 58 Caroline Price and Whitney Kay traded breaks with No. 25 Robin Anderson and Skyler Morton before breaking at love to take a 5-3 lead. From there, the Tar Heel tandem took control, dropping just one more game on the way to an 8-4 win.
With Lauren McHale and Ashley Dai battling No. 38 Courtney Dolehide and Pamela Montez, Gina Suarez-Malaguti and Tessa Lyons were on the verge of victory on court three. The No. 3 UNC pair raced out to a 5-1 lead on the strength of two breaks and never looked back, winning 8-2 over Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips to clinch the point for the Tar Heels.
The first singles sets were extremely close, and at one point all six matches featured scores of either 5-4 or 5-5. Carolina appeared to have the early advantage on courts one, two and four, while UCLA (20-5) led on three, five and six. But the Bruins had a late surge, and claimed five of six first sets. UNC's lone opening set win came on court five, as McHale won four straight games to top No. 93 Harrison, 7-5.
The Bruins got their first point of the afternoon on court two, as No. 20 McPhillips turned around a 4-2 first set deficit to beat No. 49 De Bruycker, 6-4, 6-1. UCLA took its first lead next, as No. 3 Anderson used the momentum from a tight first-set win to defeat No. 7 Suarez-Malaguti at the top position, 7-5, 6-1.
On court three, No. 39 Kay erased a two-break deficit in the second to make it 4-4 against Montez. But the UCLA senior broke for 5-4 and held on to avenge her loss to Kay in the ITA National Team Indoor final, 6-4, 6-4.
From there, UCLA was on the verge of victory as the Bruins were up on courts four and six and Harrison had forced a third set on court five. But this time it was Carolina's turn to start winning games in bunches, as Price and Lyons both got key late breaks to force third sets and extend the dual.
UNC fell behind early breaks on all three remaining courts before UCLA got its first chance to win the match on court five. Harrison won the first three points from McHale, who then saved a pair of match points. On the third match point, a Harrison ground stroke struck the tape and fell over for an agonizing winner to seal the victory for the Bruins.
UCLA will face third-seeded Texas A&M in Monday's national semifinals. Stanford will face Florida in the other semi.
Carolina will now turn its attention to the NCAA singles tournament, where four Tar Heels will compete starting Wednesday. Suarez-Malaguti, De Bruycker, Kay and Price are all in the field, while Suarez-Malaguti is the event's No. 7 seed. Draws for that event will be available later in the week.
No. 7 UCLA 4, No. 2 North Carolina 1
1. #58 Price/Kay (UNC) def. #25 Anderson/Morton (UCLA), 8-4
2. McHale/Dai (UNC) vs. #38 Dolehide/Montez (UCLA), 1-7, DNF
3. Suarez-Malaguti/Lyons (UNC) def. Harrison/McPhillips (UCLA), 8-2
Order of finish: 1, 3
1. #3 Robin Anderson (UCLA) def. #7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti (UNC), 7-5, 6-1
2. #20 Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) def. #49 Zoe De Bruycker (UNC), 6-4, 6-1
3. Pamela Montez (UCLA) def. #39 Whitney Kay (UNC), 6-4, 6-4
4. Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA) vs. #46 Caroline Price (UNC), 7-5, 5-7, 3-2, DNF
5. #93 Catherine Harrison (UCLA) def. Lauren McHale (UNC), 5-7, 7-5, 6-3
6. Courtney Dolehide (UCLA) vs. Tessa Lyons (UNC), 6-4, 4-6, 3-2, DNF
Order of finish: 2, 1, 3, 5