North Carolina has done it – they’ve snapped Virginia’s 140-match ACC winning streak and they did it in Charlottesville in the finals of the National Team Indoors. It what will go down as one of the all-time classics, North Carolina came back from dropping the doubles point and four first sets to defeat #1 Virginia 4-2.
|(Picture Courtesy of North Carolina)|
The doubles point started off fairly promising for North Carolina with the Tar Heels going up early breaks at #1 and #3 but Virginia would quickly erase the deficits. UNC’s #1 team of Brett Clark and Robert Kelly broke Luca Corinteli’s serve from 15-40, after Ryan Shane missed a few volleys, to go up 2-1 but Corinteli and Shane broke the Clark serve at love to even it at 2-2.
Virginia’s #2 team of Mac Styslinger and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead after Kwiatkowski held and they broke the Brayden Schnur serve to go up 2-0. Schnur and Jack Murray would break back from 30-40 after Schnur hit two straight backhand winners (first one crosscourt, the second was a return winner down the line after Kwiatkowski started moving to the center to poach). Murray fell behind 0-40 on his serve but he and Schnur won the next four points to hold for 2-2 after Styslinger netted a forehand on the deciding point.
UNC’s #3 team of Ronnie Schneider and Blaine “Bo” Boyden broke J.C. Aragone to start the match and then Boyden went up 40-30 on his serve. Boyden double faulted to bring up the deciding point and then Collin Altramirano jumped on his second serve by hitting a low forehand right at his feet but the Tar Heel freshman was unable to scoop it so UVA had the break for 1-1. Altamirano and Schneider exchanged holds then UNC went up 30-40 on Aragone’s 2-2 service game. Aragone fought off both break points to hold for 3-2 with a big serve down the T winning the deciding point.
So all three courts were on serve midway through the doubles point but things would change quickly. Virginia broke the Boyden serve at #3 to go up 4-2 but UNC would go up 15-40 on the Altamirano serve. Altamirano would then hit a service winner for 30-40, Aragone speared one at the net for 40-40, and then Altamirano hit another service winner on a big kicker out wide to hold for 5-2.
Back at #1, each team would hold serve until Brett Clark served at 3-4. Clark/Kelly fell behind 30-40 and then UVA got the break for 5-3 when Clark netted a low volley. Luca Corinteli would be serving for the match at #1 while Schneider was serving 2-5, deciding point, at #3. Schneider got the hold for 3-5 which meant Virginia would also be serving for the match at #3.
Corinteli got an easy hold to win it at #1 and less than two minutes later Aragone would hold at love when Altamirano spiked an overhead on match point. Virginia had taken the 1-0 lead in 29 minutes by winning the doubles point for the third time this weekend while North Carolina had dropped it for the third time of the weekend. The match at #2 was abandoned with UNC’s Schnur serving at 3-4, 40-15.
While Virginia had to feel a little more confident after winning the doubles point, UNC didn’t show any signs of letting it bother them.
“In the past when there was a longer gap between singles and doubles you’d have more time to dwell on what just happened in doubles. But with just five minutes the guys are in such a rush to get ready for singles they don’t really have the time to think about what just happened,” said UNC head coach Sam Paul. “They had a quick players-only meeting and told me they were focused on getting it done in singles.”
Virginia served first on all six courts, which made it easier to follow, and everyone held except for Mac Styslinger who went down an early break at #4 to Jack Murray. Ryan Shane got the first break for Virginia when he broke Brayden Schnur from 30-40 to go up 2-0 at #1. J.C. Aragone followed suit and broke Robert Kelly to take a 2-0 lead at #5 but Kelly would break back from 30-40 to make it 1-2. Henrik Wiersholm, who came into the match 3-0 on the weekend, broke Anu Kodali on the deciding point to go up 2-0 at #6. Collin Altamirano broke Brett Clark from 30-40 to go up 2-0 at #3 and he’d consolidate the break with a love hold to make it 3-0.
So in the opening 10 minutes of singles action you had Virginia already up breaks on three courts, with North Carolina up a break on one, and two on serve.
Virginia’s J.C. Aragone broke Robert Kelly’s 2-3 service game from 15-40 to go up 4-2 and then he’d hold from 40-30 to go up 5-2. Aragone would break Kelly again from 30-40 to claim the opening set 6-2 in just 24 minutes.
Virginia’s Collin Altamirano would make it two first sets for the Hoos when he came back from 15-40 down to hold and take the opening set 6-1 in 26 minutes – on the deciding point Altamirano hit a big forehand that nicked the net and the change of direction and pace was enough to force a Clark error.
Less than a minute later, Ryan Shane would give Virginia another first set when he broke Brayden Schnur for the third time to take it 6-2. After Shane opened up a 3-0 lead in the first, Schnur held for 1-3, Shane held for 4-1, and then Shane broke from 30-40 to go up 5-1. Schnur broke back from 30-40 to make it 2-5 but Shane broke again for the set.
Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Ronnie Schneider had held seven times in a row to start the match at #2 but Schneider was facing three break points when he went down 15-40 on his 3-4 service game. Schneider hit a volley winner for 30-40 and then Kwiatkowski went long on a service return to bring up the deciding point. Schneider hit an inside out forehand but Kwiatkowski countered with a backhand crosscourt winner to break for 5-3. Kwiatkowski went up 40-15 on his serve but Schneider won the next two to bring up the deciding point. Kwiatkowski would double fault to give the break to Schneider and put it back on serve at 5-4. Schneider fell behind 15-40 on his serve but he got it back to the deciding point when Kwiatkowski sliced a backhand into the net at 30-40. Kwiatkowski would force a Schneider backhand error to get the break and take the opening set 6-4 in 41 minutes. So after seven straight holds the set finished with three straight breaks (pattern forming).
|Anu Kodali (picture from GoHeels.com)|
Virginia had four first sets but North Carolina’s Anu Kodali had just given the Tar Heels its first after coming back from 2-0 down to take the set 6-2 in 37 minutes. Kodali started the comeback by breaking Henrik Wiersholm’s 2-0 service game on the deciding point and then after a hold he’d break from 30-40 to go up 3-2. After a hold made it 4-2, he’d break again on the deciding point when Wiersholm put a backhand into the net to make it 5-2. Kodali would hold at love to take the set 6-2.
Roughly seven minutes later, Jack Murray would give North Carolina its second first set after he held from 40-30 to take it 6-4 in 44 minutes. Murray looked like he’d close out the set about 10 minutes earlier when he served for it up 5-2 but Styslinger broke and then held from 40-15 to make it 5-4.
So after 45 minutes of play Virginia had four opening sets and North Carolina had two but Virginia’s J.C. Aragone was about to turn one of the first sets into a straight set win.
|J.C. Aragone (picture from virginiasports.com)|
Aragone broke Kelly to go up 3-1 in the second and then held at love to make it 4-1. Aragone was playing at a breakneck pace and Kelly just couldn’t seem to get himself settled. Kelly would hold on the deciding point to make it 2-4 and then he went up 15-30 on Aragone’s serve. Kelly would put a second serve return into the net and then Aragone hit a service winner to go up 40-30. Arogone hammered a big serve and then ripped a forehand from inside the service line to get the hold. Kelly held one more time before Aragone held at love to close it out 6-2, 6-3 in 55 minutes.
Anu Kodali would ring up North Carolina’s first point at #6 when he closed out Henrik Wiersholm 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour and 18 minutes. Kodali came into the match as the biggest underdog by UTR standards (1.27 difference) but he sure didn’t play like it. “Anu really stepped up big,” said Sam Paul. “It helped us tremendously to put that first point on the board. Anu played really solid this week with his win over Thomson (Texas Tech) on Friday giving him some confidence and then he played well against Rapp too.”
Virginia’s lead was 2-1, and it had set leads on three of the four remaining courts, but North Carolina really picked up the pace at the top three spots.
Brayden Schnur broke Ryan Shane to start the second set and then held for 2-0. Shane fell behind 0-30 on his 0-2 service game but took the next four points to hold for 1-2. Schnur would fall behind 15-40 on his next service game but after getting it back to the deciding point he’d double fault to make it 2-2. Shane held for 3-2 and then he went up 0-40 on Schnur’s serve. Schnur came all the way back to get the hold after Shane went long on a forehand at 30-40 and then Shane put a forehand into the net on the deciding point to make it 3-3. Schnur would break for 4-3 and then on the deciding point of his service game he hit an off-speed serve out wide that caught Shane by surprise and after Shane’s return fell short of the net Schnur yelled out “that’s so smart” in reference to his serve selection. Shane held for 4-5 and then he’d go up 15-40 on Schnur’s serve. Schnur got it to the deciding point but he’d hit a half volley on the sideline that sat up perfectly for Shane who then hit a crosscourt winner for the break. Schnur broke back from 30-40 and then he’d finally serve out the set at love to send the match to a third set. The biggest change I saw between the first and second sets was the decline in Shane’s first service percentage. He really struggled in the second set with many of his first serves missing badly.
While Schnur got the split at #1 both Ronnie Schneider and Brett Clark were trying to do the same at #2 and #3.
Schneider got the first break of the second set when he broke Kwiatkowski from 30-40 to go up 3-2 and then he’d hold for 4-2. After an exchange of holds, Kwiatkowski would double fault from 0-40 to give Schneider the set 6-3.
Clark was looking good at #3 when he went up 5-2 but Altamirano held and then broke from 15-40 to put it back on serve at 5-4. Clark went up 30-40 on Altamirano’s serve but he put a forehand into the net and then on the deciding point he got a look at a second serve but missed the return long by a few feet to make it 5-5. Clark held from 40-30 to go up 6-5 and then Altamirano did the same to send it to a tiebreak. Clark jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak with one of the points coming as a result of Altamirano being overruled for the third time in the match. Clark would end up taking the tiebreak 7-2 and Altamirano proceeded to rip off a series of four letter words that I’m not going to repeat.
Clark winning the tiebreak and forcing a third set was huge for UNC. If Altamirano takes it we’re looking at a 3-1 Virginia lead with the other Tar Heels knowing if they lose it’s all over. Keeping the score at 2-1 probably kept the guys a little looser.
While North Carolina got splits up top, Virginia’s Mac Styslinger would get a split at #4 after he gave Jack Murray a second set bagel in 23 minutes. Murray would rebound in the third set and jump out to a 4-0 lead but it’d be a while before this one would reach the finish line.
Back at #1, Ryan Shane served to start the third set but he quickly went down 0-40. Shane’s forehand and serve would bail him out as he hit a forehand winner, an ace, a service winner, and another ace on the deciding point to hold for 1-0. On the deciding point, Schnur tried calling the serve out after it had already hit the wall but upon Shane’s appeal it was quickly overturned. Neither player would face another break point until Shane went down 15-40 on his 5-5 service game. Once again Shane used his big serve and forehand to come back and hold after hitting a forehand winner on the deciding point. Schnur then held easily from 40-15 to send it to a match deciding tiebreak.
Over at #2, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski would strike first blood in the third when he broke Ronnie Schneider to go up 2-1. A few games later Schneider went up 15-30 on Kwiatkowski’s 4-3 service game but Kwiatkowski took the next three points to hold for 5-3. The big point in that rally came on the 30-all point when Kwiatkowski was pretty much dead at the net but Schneider hit it right at him and Kwiatkowski hit a reflex volley for a winner. Schneider would then come back from 15-30 down on his 3-5 service game to hold for 4-5. With Kwiatkowski serving for the match he’d quickly go down 0-30 and then he thought he hit a good second serve out wide but it was called out and confirmed by the chair. Kwiatkowski was livid and voiced his opinion to the chair for 30 seconds or so and then on the next point he hit a wild swinging volley that missed well long (and wide). Kwiatkowski would quickly calm himself down and would break back to go up 6-5 which gave himself a second chance to serve it out. Schneider would flip the script and break back from 15-40 after Kwiatkowski hit a forehand wide and this one was heading for a match deciding tiebreak.
Mac Styslinger had made a big comeback at #4 by winning four straight games to tie up Jack Murray at 4-4. Styslinger was serving at 30-all when he hit a running backhand down the line but Murray called it out. Styslinger immediately appealed to the chair who overturned the call to make it 40-30 (couldn’t really tell on the live stream but I thought it was good at first glance). Murray got it to the deciding point and then hit a menacing forehand winner to break for 5-4. Styslinger broke back from 30-40 to even it at 5-5 but Murray would break on the deciding point to go up 6-5 – on that deciding point Murray hit a backhand that clipped the tape which threw Styslinger off and forced the error.
With Murray getting ready to serve for the match again, both of the tiebreaks at #1 and #2 were tied at 3-3 at the changeover. Schnur would go up 6-4 in his tiebreak and then Ryan Shane would put a mid-court overhead into the net to give Schnur the 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(4) win at #1. Schneider went up 6-3* but Kwiatkowski hit a volley winner and then an overhead winner to make it *6-5. On match point Schneider hit a serve down the T, came in and hit a forehand to Kwiatkowski’s backhand, and then Kwiatkowski hit it into the net to clinch the 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) win for Schneider at #2. Both matches finished within 30 seconds of each other and took 2 hours and 8 minutes.
North Carolina now led 3-2 and Murray was serving 6-5, 15-0. Murray would go up 40-30 but on a long rally he’d hit a backhand into the net to bring up the deciding point. Styslinger would pull a backhand just wide and the mob-scene was on – Murray had clinched North Carolina’s first-ever ITA National Team Indoor Championship with a 6-4, 0-6, 7-5 win in 2 hours and 13 minutes.
The remaining match at #4 was abandoned with Brett Clark serving for the match up 5-4 after trailing Collin Altamirano 1-4.
Below is match point courtesy of UNC and then there are three separate videos that were tweeted to me by J who recorded the tiebreaks at #1, #2, as well as Murray’s final service game at #4.
Huge shoutout to UNC’s Drew Parker for getting all the below interviews (Murray/Schnur on top and Clark down low) done and uploaded for our viewing pleasure. Drew also captured a slew of UNC’s match points over the weekend which I definitely appreciated. Thanks for your hard work Drew!!
Ronnie Schneider on best tennis moment so far pic.twitter.com/LyctUr2KRT
UNC Men’s Tennis (@carolinatennis) February 15, 2016
Schneider overcomes 5-3 3rd set deficit in which UVA served for match twice pic.twitter.com/iaZUNJGGJe
UNC Men’s Tennis (@carolinatennis) February 15, 2016
2. #23 Ronnie Schneider (UNC 14.05) def. #2 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (UVA 14.79) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)
3. #29 Brett Clark (UNC 13.82) vs. Collin Altamirano (UVA 14.25) 1-6, 7-6(2), *5-4, unf.
4. #89 Jack Murray (UNC 13.75) def. #78 Mac Styslinger (UVA 13.93) 6-4, 0-6, 7-5
5. JC Aragone (UVA 13.82) def. #62 Robert Kelly (UNC 13.77) 6-2, 6-3
6. Anu Kodali (UNC 13.20) def. Henrik Wiersholm (UVA 14.47) 6-2, 6-2
Coach Sam Paul on the programs 1st title pic.twitter.com/THPBArR7gW
UNC Men’s Tennis (@carolinatennis) February 15, 2016
Post-Match Comments from North Carolina head coach Sam Paul
“Jack has been one of our best points over the last 3 years so for him to get through that was great.”
In talking about the match itself – “It was a classic college tennis match pretty amazing drama which is what makes it such a great sport. We were in some holes with Thai serving for it twice and Brett was down some in the third but our guys kept plugging along. Virginia is so tough, I mean they set the standard in our league and the nation so to be able to beat them is great for us.”
In talking about his top two singles players (Schnur & Schneider) – “Just a huge win by Brayden. He missed the entire fall with an injury but he’s improved every week since he came back at the Kick-Off Weekend. His movement is a lot better than it was just four weeks ago and I can’t say enough about his mental toughness.
“I tell you Ronnie is such a fighter. He broke his leg after the All-Americans and was out for 8 weeks but he’s really started hitting his stride in the last 2 weeks.
“Huge crowd 700-800 on a Monday morning with plenty of snow on the ground. It says a lot about Brian and the program that they can get that many out on a day like today.”
Post-Match Quotes from Virginia’s recap:
I was live tweeting during the match so if you want to go back through the hundreds of tweets to get a feel for the flow of the match be my guest.
Also make sure you read the ITA’s recap which has several other quotes.