Coming off 7-0 victories against The Citadel and Charlotte on Friday, the No. 9 South Carolina men's tennis team battled hard to defeat UNC 4-3 Sunday afternoon.
The victory marked the first time that the Gamecocks have defeated the Tar Heels since 2003.
South Carolina started the match by claiming the doubles point after wins from graduate student Jake Beasley and junior James Story, as well as graduate student Raphael Lambling and sophomore Casey Hoole.
Beasley and Story dominated throughout the doubles round, putting them in a position to defeat UNC graduate student Brian Cernoch and freshman Benjamin Kittay 6-4.
As for Lambling and Hoole, they started their doubles match down 2-1 but rallied and came back to win 6-3 over UNC junior Peter Murphy and graduate student Karl Poling, guaranteeing South Carolina the doubles' point.
“The guys laid their hearts on the line, they got to the point where they're playing great tennis,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “There are so many things that need to be there for a great dual match to happen and we got there on three of the courts, eventually we need to be able to on six so that's going to be the message coming home today."
Tar Heel sophomore Chris Li defeated Hoole in two sets and clinched the first point of the singles round, tying the match at 1 point a piece early on.
In a fast-paced match, the Tar Heels continued its momentum with Murphy beating Beasley, allowing the Tar Heels to start to pull away with the lead.
With a fired-up crowd looking on, Lambling dropped his second set to Poling in a strong back-and-forth match, which added to the visitor's advantage.
Despite these early losses, South Carolina continued to fight and were able to chip away at UNC's lead as the singles round progressed. Story took control early on in his match against Tar Heel senior Anuj Watane, winning in two sets and adding fuel to the Gamecocks' fire.
After dropping the first set of his singles match, Samuel regrouped and defeated Cernoch in the second and third sets, winning a huge point to keep the Gamecocks alive and tie the match 3-3.
With the match's result hanging in the balance, emotions were high heading into the final singles showdown, as junior Connor Thomson and UNC graduate student Ryan Seggerman battled for the match-deciding point.
“It was an amazing college tennis match today, so about 90 minutes into singles, I was not thrilled with where we were at,” Goffi said. “We scheduled teams like UNC to bring out the best in us and, we were not, that was not happening. We were not digging deep enough in the early part of the singles on a lot of the courts, but the question was about the end of the match and all I was doing was cherishing the moment.”
Thomson started the singles round a set down but said he was fueled by both the loud crowd and his teammates on the sidelines, who rallied from behind in order to defeat Seggerman in a must-win situation.
“We had a high with the doubles point and few guys going down in straights and myself losing the first set but something that I pride myself on is being that guy for the team and making sure I can be a rock for them,” Thomson said. “It was kind of like just don't give up, set down, fight every point, see where it goes.”
South Carolina returns to action Jan. 28 at home in a 11 a.m. matchup against the University of Pennsylvania.