Tallahassee, Fla. – In a match that lasted nearly three hours, the Florida State men’s tennis team notched its biggest win in school history, emerging as 4-3 winners over No. 1 North Carolina Friday evening. The win is the first for Florida State (10-4, 2-1 ACC) over a top-ranked team in school history and the highest in head coach Dwayne Hultquist’s 17 seasons at Florida State.
Coming off a 4-3 loss Sunday at unranked Miami, Florida State fell three spots to No. 51 in this week’s ITA rankings, while North Carolina was the lone undefeated team remaining in the country and entered its ACC opener with a 15-0 record on the season.
The Seminoles attacked early in doubles, with freshman Aziz Dougaz and senior Michael Rinaldi securing a 6-1 win on Court 2 over Jack Murray and Brayden Schnur. After North Carolina tied it with a win on Court 3, FSU seniors Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez beat third-ranked Brett Clark and Robert Kelly, 6-4, and gave the Seminoles a 1-0 lead.
The win for the 26th-ranked pair of Lock and Nunez was their 10th consecutive to open the season and their second in two weeks over a Top 3 team after beating No. 1 Gordon Watson and Diego Hidalgo of Florida last month.
Needing three wins for the upset, the Seminoles faced a five-headed monster of ranked players for the Tar Heels. North Carolina took a 2-1 lead after wins on Court 3 by No. 29 Clark over Rinaldi and Court 5 by No. 89 Kelly over Jose Gracia.
FSU tied the match with its lone straight-set win by Dougaz on Court 4, 6-1, 7-6 (4) over No. 74 Murray. The win was Dougaz’s first over a ranked player in three tries through his first season in Tallahassee.
With the match tied at 2-2, the final three courts went to a third set. Lock and Nunez were facing a pair of Top 40 players, Lock against No. 38 Schnur and Nunez on Court 2 against No. 12 Ronnie Schneider. Lock used a break on a deuce point at 4-3 to take a two-game lead, and served out for the 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 win to give the Seminoles a 3-2 edge.
After Lock’s win, and with his teammates on the court cheering him on, Nunez took a 4-0 third-set lead and finished off Schneider with a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3 win to clinch the upset.
In the remaining match, Carolina’s Blaine Boyden beat Terrance Whitehurst, 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2 to finalize the margin.
– UNC had won each of the previous two matches against the Seminoles and held a 31-11 all-time margin.
– FSU’s previous best win was over No. 4 Duke in 2004 and 2006, both by 4-3 margins.
– Nunez’s win over No. 12 Schneider was the highest-ranked win of his career, eclipsing his win over No. 16 Wayne Montgomery in October.
– Lock now has 82 career singles wins, one shy of FSU’s all-time Top 10. His 88 doubles wins are good for fourth in school history, four behind third place Jeff Horine. His 170 combined wins are sixth, one behind Scott Blessing.
– Nunez’s 80 career doubles wins tie for seventh place in school history with Jason White.
Head coach Dwayne Hultquist:
“I never feel that anyone should win the doubles on us. We’re good at all three spots. Ben and Marco haven’t lost this year (10-0). Aziz and Michael played lights out. That set the tone for the whole match.
You don’t win National Indoors (UNC) without being a resilient team, and they showed that today. We split the first sets with them, and they took it to us in the second sets. Aziz’s win in straight sets was huge for us. It tied the match up and reestablished our momentum. Ben and Marco have been in the pivotal spot a number of times in their career, and today they both came through when we needed them. They were great today.”
On beating the top-ranked team in his 17th season:
“Historically, it’s the biggest win for us. We’ve never beaten the No. 1 team in the country. We’ve had a couple of Top 5 wins over Duke and beat Illinois in the NCAA Tournament when they were defending national champions. But as far as the regular season, this is our biggest win. It’s got to rank up there.”
On being doused with the water cooler postmatch:
“That hasn’t happened before. I knew it was coming but I wasn’t going to fight it.”
Senior Benjamin Lock:
“Unbelievable. Roller-coaster of a match. Really tight doubles – Michael and Aziz played lights out today and that’s the best I’ve seen them play. We really set the tone heading into singles. After last weekend, taking a loss to Miami, we got a reality check with this team. We talked about how we were going to act moving forward and that it wasn’t going to affect our season.
Everyone gave a great effort. I was trying to focus on my match but there was so much emotion. I knew that if I just kept holding serve in the third set, I was going to get a break. Next thing I knew, I was 5-3 up and 40-0 serving. That’s when it hit me that we could win this thing.”
Florida State hits the courts again Sunday at 12:00 p.m. against No. 66 Duke, 5-2 winners at No. 74 Miami Friday night.
For more information on Florida State tennis, check Seminoles.com for the latest news and scheduling information, or keep up with the team on social media through Twitter (@FSU_MTennis), Facebook (/FSUMTennis), and Instagram (@FSU_Mtennis).
#51 Florida State 4, #1 North Carolina 3
March 11, 2016 – Scott Speicher Tennis Center, Tallahassee, Fla.
#30 Benjamin Lock (FSU) def. #38 Brayden Schnur (UNC), 7-5, 2-6, 6-3
#97 Marco Nunez (FSU) def. #12 Ronnie Schneider (UNC), 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3
#29 Brett Clark (UNC) def. Michael Rinaldi (FSU), 6-2, 6-2
Aziz Dougaz (FSU) def. #74 Jack Murray (UNC), 6-1, 7-6 (4)
#89 Robert Kelly (UNC) def. Jose Gracia (FSU), 7-5, 6-2
Blaine Boyden (UNC) def. Terrance Whitehurst (FSU), 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2
#26 Lock/Nunez (FSU) def. #3 Clark/Kelly (UNC), 6-4
Dougaz/Rinaldi (FSU) def. Murray/Schnur (UNC), 6-1
Andrew Gores/Schneider (UNC) def. Gracia/Whitehurst (FSU), 6-3
Order of Finish – Singles: 3,5,4,1,2,6; Doubles: 2,3,1