UNC advances to face California May 18 at 7 p.m. in an NCAA third round match in Athens, Ga.
“South Carolina has a great team,” UNC coach Sam Paul said. “We knew coming in here, we felt this was one of the toughest regionals, playing VCU and then South Carolina.”
Carolina advanced to Saturday's second round match by winning 4-0 on Friday against VCU, with the three singles wins coming from a junior and two seniors. Against South Carolina, it was the younger players – sophomore Blaine Boyden and freshmen Will Blumberg and Simon Soendergaard – who provided the singles wins.
UNC opened play by claiming a hard-fought doubles point. At the No. 1 spot, the 12th-ranked team of Blumberg and junior Robert Kelly beat 13th-ranked Harrison O'Keefe and Yancy Dennis 6-4. On Court 2, the team of Soendergaard and senior Jack Murray, ranked 82nd, also earned a 6-4 win to give UNC the point.
“I think we did a good job of setting the tone in doubles,” Murray said. “That's a really good team, up and down the line, in singles and doubles and I think we came out with really good energy and that helped us get the doubles point.”
The Tar Heels took five of six first sets, including tie-breaker wins on Court 3 (Kelly) and Court 5 (Murray). In Kelly's case, he trailed 2-0 in the tiebreaker but rallied to take the next seven points and win it 7-2. Murray took his 7-3, and Soendergaard battled to a 7-5 first-set win on Court 4.
The first singles match to finish was at No. 1, where South Carolina's Gabriel Friedrich, ranked 71st, beat UNC's Schneider, ranked 22nd, 6-1, 6-3.
That tied the score at 1-1, but the deadlock lasted only two minutes before Blumberg, ranked 16th, finished off No. 71 Harrison O'Keefe on Court 2, 6-4, 6-4.
The other four courts played on for just over 10 minutes before Tar Heel sophomore Blaine Boyden won on Court 6, beating Paul Jubb 6-2, 6-4.
Two minutes later, Soendergaard won his second set 6-4 over Yancy Dennis to clinch the match for Carolina.
“All the credit to Will for doing a great job like he's been doing all year, and to Bo and Simon for coming good in the end,” Murray said. “We have so much fight and different guys who can step up every day.”
This is a familiar script for the Tar Heel seniors. In 2014, freshman year for Murray and Schneider, UNC beat South Carolina 4-1 in a second-round match in Chapel Hill to advance to the Sweet 16 in Athens. Carolina reached the Elite 8 and replicated that finish in 2015 and 2016. Now they get the chance to go back one more time.
“We're looking forward to going to Athens,” Paul said. “I'm really happy for our senior class to finish out here with a win, and it's the fourth time for them to go to the Sweet 16. I'm just extremely happy for my entire team.”
May 13, 2017
NCAA Men's Tennis Championship Second Round
Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center
Chapel Hill, N.C.
#9 North Carolina 4, #20 South Carolina 1
Order of match finish: (1,2)
1. #12 Blumberg/Kelly (UNC) def. O'Keefe/Dennis (USC), 6-4
2. Murray/Soendergaard (UNC) def. Fennell/Friedrich (USC), 6-4
3. Kodali/Schneider (UNC) vs. Jubb/Mayrone (USC), 4-5 unf
Order of match finish: (1,2,6,4)
1. #49 Gabriel Friedrich (USC) def. #22 Ronnie Schneider (UNC), 6-1, 6-3
2. #16 William Blumberg (UNC) def. #71 Harrison O'Keefe (USC), 6-4, 6-4
3. #116 Robert Kelly (UNC) vs. Andrew Schafer (USC), 7-6 (7-2), 4-2 unf
4. Simon Soendergaard (UNC) def. Yancy Dennis (USC), 7-5, 6-4
5. Jack Murray (UNC) vs. Alex Fennell (USC), 7-6 (7-3), 2-1 unf
6. Blaine Boyden (UNC) def. Paul Jubb (USC), 6-2, 6-4
Records: UNC 26-4, South Carolina 21-7