It all came down to one match, which ended with a marathon final game.
On her fourth match point, UCLA’s Kyle McPhillips finally prevailed over North Carolina’s Caroline Price at No. 3 singles, giving the Bruins a 4-3 win and the NCAA women’s tennis championship.
McPhillips broke Price at 4-3 to serve for the match in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 at Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex, only to see Price win the first three points. McPhillips saved the break points and then the players traded game points in what was ultimately a 22-point game.
It ended when a Price volley sailed long, sparking a big Bruin bear hug on court 3.
“She’s disappointed; she feels like she let the team down, which she didn’t,” UNC coach Brian Kalbas said of Price.
The No. 7 Tar Heels (29-6) were making their first championship appearance. Fifth-ranked UCLA (27-2) was playing in its eighth final, and second in three years. This is the Bruins’ second championship.
“It’s heartbreaking to end the season, but I’m really, really proud of our team and our run here at the NCAA tournament,” Kalbas said.
Doubles all season had been a strength for both teams: North Carolina had lost the doubles point just four times all year, while UCLA came in a perfect 28-0.
The Bruins made it 29 in a row with wins at Nos. 1 and 2, handing UNC’s top team of Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter just their second loss of the season.
Loeb was handed another rare loss in singles. The nation’s top-ranked player fell 6-2, 6-2 to UCLA’s Robin Anderson, ranked No. 2. The defeat put the Bruins up 2-0 and ended a 25-match win streak for Loeb.
The fifth-ranked Carter put the Tar Heels on the scoreboard with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 2 singles. A star freshman like Loeb, it was the 47th win of the season for Carter. Both players, along with Price, will be competing in the individual tournaments, which begin today.
Five minutes after Carter closed out her match, Kate Vialle drew the Tar Heels even with a win at No. 5. That left UNC’s Price at No. 3, Ashley Dai at No. 4 and Tessa Lyons at No. 6, all of them in third sets.
Dai, who replaced Whitney Kay (foot injury) in the lineup, fell to UCLA’s Chanelle Van Nguyen, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead with two matches remaining.
The only senior to play for UNC in the final, Lyons said she was determined to end her career with a win. Lyons won a hard-fought battle at No. 6, edging Kaitlin Ray 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.
“That girl would have had to kill me to beat me,” Lyons said.
Lyons’ match ended as Price and McPhillips were beginning their topsy-turvy final game. Both teams were crowded around court 3, knowing one of them would soon be celebration. A point or two go differently and it would have been the Tar Heels.
Carter and Vialle were named to the all-tournament team.
Women’s Final: #5 UCLA (27-2) def. #7 NORTH CAROLINA (29-6), 4-3 - Henry Feild Stadium
Doubles (Order of finish: 2,1)
1. #1 Robin Anderson/Jennifer Brady (UCLA) def. #3 Jamie Loeb/Hayley Carter (NORTH CAROLINA), 8-7(3)
2. #9 Catherine Harrison/Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) def. #13 Whitney Kay/Caroline Price (NORTH CAROLINA), 8-2
3. Courtney Dolehide/Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA) vs. Ashley Dai/Tessa Lyons (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-7, unf.
Singles (Order of finish: 1,2,5,4,6,3)
1. #2 Robin Anderson (UCLA) def. #1 Jamie Loeb (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-2, 6-2
2. #5 Hayley Carter (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #8 Jennifer Brady (UCLA), 6-2, 6-2
3. #38 Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) def. #59 Caroline Price (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
4. #13 Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA) def. #105 Ashley Dai (NORTH CAROLINA), 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
5. Kate Vialle (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #75 Catherine Harrison (UCLA), 6-4, 6-4
6. Tessa Lyons (NORTH CAROLINA) def. Kaitlin Ray (UCLA), 3-6, 6-4, 7-5