Surprise! The rain is falling – again – at the NCAA Tennis Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Georgia. As of 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, the committee overseeing the tournament announced that no play would begin before 4 p.m. today.
The original plan had the No. 2 Virginia men facing No. 9 North Carolina at 1 p.m. and the No. 1 Florida women meeting No. 6 Stanford at 5 p.m. It is expected that given the new starting time (the women’s championship will not begin before 6 p.m.), matches will be held on the outdoor courts.
In the meantime, here are a few highlights you may have missed leading into today’s match.
Rain, go away
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The college tennis nation has dealt with its share of inclement weather, and the Tar Heels have not been spared. On Saturday, North Carolina endured a five-hour rain delay before eliminating No. 1 Wake Forest 4-2 in a match that began around 4 p.m. and ended well after midnight.
On Monday, the Tar Heels squared off against No. 12 Georgia at 10 a.m. and after a lengthy rain delay, finally finished about eight hours later indoors with North Carolina taking a 4-3 victory.
“Georgia gave us everything they had and their crowd was incredible early,” North Carolina coach Sam Paul said. “I told my guys to embrace the atmosphere and I think they did, it’s such an amazing feeling to absorb the energy here.”
Perhaps the best storyline from the NCAAs has been the inspirational play of UNC sophomore Blaine “Bo” Boyden, a former Wakefield High standout.
Boyden won the clinching match in three sets against Georgia’s Robert Loeb on Monday and he also provided the clincher on Saturday in a three-set victory over Wake Forest’s Alan Gadjiev.
During his match on Monday, Boyden was heard shouting “Boyden Strong” after winning points. He told DawgNation.com after the match that during Monday’s weather delay he’d received texts from his mother Pamela Boyden, who is hospitalized in Raleigh with breast cancer.
“After the rain delay I was feeling a little pressure,” said Boyden to DawgNation.com. “I feel like I’d dropped my level a little bit there,” Boyden said. “She texted me and said, ‘I know I’m not there right now but I’m cheering you on and we’re Boyden strong.’ It meant a lot, and I just kept saying it throughout the whole set.”
Just before the delay, Boyden’s serve was broken in the first game of the third set, but he was able to come back and post a 7-6 (0), 4-6, 6-3 victory over Loeb.
First time for everything
North Carolina, which defeated No. 8 California 4-1 in the round of 16 last Thursday, earned entry into the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time. And after Saturday’s victory over Wake Forest, the Tar Heels qualified for the semifinals for the first time.
Tuesday’s match against Virginia will be the first time in school history North Carolina has a shot to win the national championship.
The Tar Heels have made the tournament 23 times and have never finished in the top four. UNC’s NCAA tournament debut came exactly 40 years ago at these same courts in Athens.
Entering this year’s tournament, UNC was 23-25 in NCAA play. Since 2000, the Tar Heels have made the tournament 16 times (2000-2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016).
With its victory Monday over Georgia, North Carolina also improved to 29-4, setting a new school record for victories in a season.
UNC has lost only four matches in 2017, with three of those coming from ACC opponent Virginia (33-1). The Tar Heels’ other loss came against Wake Forest on March 10 in Winston-Salem.
On Feb. 19, the Cavaliers swept the Tar Heels 4-0 at the ITA National Indoor Team Championships in Charlottesville, Va. On April 9, Virginia slipped past North Carolina 4-3 and on April 29, Virginia bested UNC 4-3 in the semifinals of the ACC tournament in Rome, Ga.
Singles ‘N’ doubles
North Carolina will be well represented at the NCAA’s singles and doubles championships, which were announced today and begin Wednesday. On the men’s side, senior Ronnie Schneider and freshman William Blumberg are in the singles draw. Blumberg will team with junior Robert Kelly in the doubles tournament.
Senior Hayley Carter is the No. 2 seed in the women’s tournament and she will team up with Jessie Aney in doubles. Carter and Aney are ranked No. 4 in the country among doubles teams.