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Takeaways from Kentucky women’s tennis’ showing at ITA Kickoff Weekend in North Carolina

Carter Skaggs
Kentucky Wildcats senior Florencia Urrutia and sophomore Lidia Gonzalez take a water break between sets on the bench during the Kentucky vs. Alabama womens tennis match on Sunday, April 2, 2023, at Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. Alabama won 4-1. Photo by Carter Skaggs | Staff

Kentucky women’s tennis attended ITA Kickoff Weekend in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Friday, Jan. 26, going up against Charlotte and top-seeded UNC Chapel Hill.

The Wildcats faced off against Charlotte on opening day and then No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday, Jan. 27.

The Cats won the first match against Charlotte in a continuation of an undefeated start to the 2024 campaign with a gutsy 4-3 comeback victory.

The match was the opening semifinal of the Chapel Hill Regional of the 2024 ITA Kickoff Weekend, advancing the Wildcats to the regional final against North Carolina that ultimately saw Kentucky fall 4-0.

Here are the four takeaways we gathered from this weekend.

Brydges – Doubles point was a battle against Charlotte

On court three of doubles, Zoe Hammond and Julia Zhu powered through to a 7-5 victory while No. 36 Makayla Mills and Elizabeth Stevens fell in a close 6-3 match – the pair’s first loss of the season.

The doubles point would now rest in the hands of No. 25 Ellie Eades and Lidia Gonzalez, who fought a long and tough battle but came up short 7-6 against their opponents.

The Wildcats would ultimately drop the doubles point after losing on courts one and two.

Brydges – Julia Zhu finished singles with a three-set victory

During singles, Zhu broke her opponent after splitting both sets. She bounced back after two different breakdowns in the important decider. 

With Zhu’s remarkable final three games over her clutch 4-3 victory. Zhu stood undefeated in her career as a Wildcat in both singles and doubles until the loss to North Carolina.

Dunlap – In the light of Carolina’s six starters, who are ranked nationally in the top 50,  Hammond shined

Single’s play proved to be quite a challenge for the Wildcats. Five Tar Heels started the matches by winning their first set. Zhu fell to UNC’s No. 41 ranked Abbey Forbes 6-1, 6-2. 

Zhu’s loss was followed by Eades, who fell to Fiona Crawley, 6-3, 6-1. The clinching point was decided as Court six finished with sophomore Ellie Myers falling to No. 32 Thea Rabman, 6-3, 6-0. 

The Tar Heels found success from doubles to singles all day on Saturday and exposed the Cats as Hammond was the only Wildcat to win her first set following a tough but successful tiebreaker before the match was decided while she was down 1-0 in the second set of play.

Hammond winning her first match off a gritty tiebreaker is a silver lining in what was a lopsided battle for Kentucky.

Dunlap – Kentucky’s doubles play continues to struggle against North Carolina 

Mills and Stevens suffered their first loss of the season versus Charlotte and then continued to struggle against North Carolina.

Eades and Gonzalez also were defeated in Charlotte. The following day against UNC, the duo were down 5-3 against No. 23 Crawley and Carson Tanguilig before the match was left unfinished. 

These duos will need to show why they are ranked to bounce back in upcoming matches.

The Wildcats will look to improve next weekend when they travel to Columbia in New York City on Friday, Feb. 2, and Princeton, New Jersey, on Sunday, Feb. 4. Kentucky’s next home game will be on Friday, Feb. 9, against Wichita State.

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