The championship may not have come down to a third set tiebreaker, as their first ITA Women's Team Indoor title did in 2013, but North Carolina had to fight off a determined Georgia team to capture their second, with Caroline Price clinching a 4-1 win for the Tar Heels at the Boars Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After losing the championship-deciding match in last year's NCAA final to Kyle McPhillips of UCLA, Price came out on top in a similarly pressure-packed moment on Monday, saving two match points against Georgia freshman Kennedy Shaffer to claim a 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 victory and end a spirited comeback by Georgia.
North Carolina won the doubles point, with little drama. Hayley Carter and Whitney Kay downed Caroline Brinson and Hannah King 6-2 at line 3 and Price and Jamie Loeb defeated Shaffer and Silvia Garcia 6-2 to end the 30-minute doubles competition.
North Carolina looked to have the match under control when the first sets in singles were completed, taking the opening set on the top four courts. But Georgia went up a break in the second set on four courts and Shaffer gave the Bulldogs their first momentum boost by taking the second set from Price. Carter made it 2-0 North Carolina with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Ellen Perez at line 2, and Kay, the hero of the 2013 championship, followed with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Garcia at line 4. That meant Georgia had to win all four matches on the courts, but they got a huge boost when Loeb failed to serve out the match at 5-4 against Lauren Herring at line 1 and Shaffer went up a break on Price at 3. Herring took the second set from Loeb, who double faulted at 5-6, 30-40.
Meanwhile, North Carolina's Ashley Dai and Kate Vialle had forced third sets against Hannah King and Caroline Brinson at lines 5 and 6, so the first point for the Bulldogs remained elusive. It appeared Shaffer would get it against Price, serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30, but she netted a backhand up the line for deuce, and on the deciding point, she went well wide with a forehand.
Given new life, Price came up with some big serving to hold for 6-5, while Brinson finished off Vialle at line 6, taking 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 decision to make the score 3-1.
With King well ahead at line 5, and Herring getting back one of the two breaks she was down in the third to Loeb, Georgia was still in the match, if Shaffer could win a third-set tiebreaker. The match didn't get that far, as Shaffer double faulted at 30-30 to give Price two match points. Price netted a forehand, forcing a deciding deuce point, which she won when Shaffer's forehand found the net after a short rally.
With its second Team Indoor title, North Carolina is now tied for fourth place for most team indoor titles, behind Stanford 10, Florida 6 and Georgia 3. For more on the final, see the North Carolina website.
Although the focus throughout the four days in on the main draw, the consolation matches are also important for ranking purposes. Here are the records of the 16 teams competing this weekend:
North Carolina 4-0
Southern Cal 2-1
Oklahoma State 1-2
#3 North Carolina 4, #9 Georgia 1
Feb 8, 2015Singles
1. #8 Jamie Loeb (NC) vs. #19 Lauren Herring (UGA) 6-2, 5-7, 3-1, unfinished
2. #31 Hayley Carter (NC) def. Ellen Perez (UGA) 6-3, 6-4
3. #22 Caroline Price (NC) def. Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) 6-1, 2-6, 7-5
4. Whitney Kay (NC) def. #83 Silvia Garcia (UGA) 6-4, 6-3
5. Ashley Dai (NC) vs. #91 Hannah King (UGA) 4-6, 6-4, 2-5, unfinished
6. Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. Kate Vialle (NC) 6-3, 4-6, 6-1
1. #13 Ashley Dai/Kate Vialle (NC) vs. Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez (UGA) 4-4, unfinished
2. Jamie Loeb/Caroline Price (NC) def. Kennedy Shaffer/Silvia Garcia (UGA) 6-2
3. Hayley Carter/Whitney Kay (NC) def. Caroline Brinson/Hannah King (UGA) 6-2
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (2,4,6,3)