UNC may have come up short in the team tournaments, but some Tar Heels will be coming home with some hardware from this year’s NCAA Tennis Championships.
The doubles team of Makenna Jones and Elizabeth Scotty won a thrilling championship match in a third set tiebreaker to take home the 2021 NCAA Women’s Doubles Championship, winning the match 7-6(3) 6-4 10-8. In doing so, they become the first Tar Heels doubles team to win a NCAA championship since 2007, and the first UNC NCAA tennis championship of any sort since Jamie Loeb in women’s singles in 2015.
Jones and Scotty fell behind pretty quickly to Texas’ Kyle Collins and Lulu Sun, who opened the match by going up 3-0. The Heels rallied to quickly even the score before the two teams traded games until the tiebreak. UNC’s pair again fell behind before a comeback to take the first set. Collins and Sun bounced back to take the second set 6-4, setting up a first to 10 points win by 2 tiebreak for the championship.
The tiebreak was a tight, back and forth battle with neither team opening up a more than two-point lead. It made it all the way to 8-8 before Jones and Scotty won the final two points of the match to clinch the national championship.
It was an impressive run for the duo, who only dropped three sets in five matches on the way to the championship. They went in to the tournament as the #4 overall seed and knocked off two conference rivals along the way, including an NC State pair in the semifinals.
While Jones and Scotty are the only two to bring home a championship, several other Tar Heels competed in the individual championships this week.
Besides the doubles duo, the other deep run from a Tar Heel belonged to senior Sara Daavettila. After a very strong season, Daavettila was named the #1 seed in the NCAA Women’s Singles Championship, and made it to the semifinals before falling to eventual national champion Emma Navarro from Virginia.
Daavettila went down fighting, rallying from a set down to force a third and decisive one before Navarro pulled out the win. Prior to that loss, Daavettila had just lost one set in the tournament, straight-setting three consecutive opponents prior to the loss.
In total, UNC had five players compete in the women’s singles tournament. Alexa Graham made it to the round of 16 after coming into the tournament unseeded. She lost to #2 overall seed Estela Perez-Somarriba from Miami, who lost to Navarro in the national championship match. Beyond her, Jones, Cameron Morra, and Fiona Crawley all lost in the first round, with Crawley suffering the first singles loss of her college career ending her freshman season.
Daavettila and Morra also teamed up in the doubles tournament and were the #2 overall seed. Their won their opening match before falling to the Collins/Sun team that Jones and Scotty defeated in the national championship match.
While no one had quite as much success as anyone on the women’s side, UNC men’s tennis also put several players into the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments.
William Blumberg was the star, making the quarterfinals in both singles and teaming Brian Cernoch to reach the same stage in the doubles tournament. In Blumberg’s singles run, he upset both the #3 overall seed Hady Habib of Texas A&M and #14 overall seed Gabriel Diallo of Kentucky.
In doubles, he and Cernoch went in as the #2 seed after going 13-3 as a team during the season. They eventually fell in the quarterfinals to fellow seeded Sven Lah and Constantin Frantzen of Baylor.
Despite the losses, Blumberg made history, becoming the first player to even be named an All-American ten times across singles and doubles.
The other Tar Heel to compete in the men’s singles tournament was Rinky Hijikata. He won his first two rounds before losing to #4 overall seed Val Vacherot of Texas A&M in the round of 16.