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North Carolina Men & Women Hold No. 1 Ranking

March 31, 2021 04:48 PM

Riding a unique streak, the University of North Carolina tennis men’s and women’s teams topped the Oracle/ITA Division I rankings for six weeks, starting on Feb. 17. In the year’s initial Tennis Channel/USTA College Tennis Top 25 Ranking on March 24, both teams were No. 1.

This achievement may be a first since 1997 when Stanford won both the men’s and women’s team titles and were presumably ranked No. 1.

The undefeated UNC women’s team has been No. 1 in the In the Oracle/ITA Division I Women’s Rankings since the first 2021 poll on Jan. 14. The 19-0 team features Southerners Makenna Jones, of Greenville, SC (pictured above); Sophia Patel, of Cary, NC; Sara McClure, of Ridgeland, SC; and Anna Harmon, of Huntersville, NC.

The women have defeated the following top 10 teams (rankings listed as of March 30): No. 2 Texas; No. 3 Georgia, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 7 Pepperdine and No. 8 Virginia.

In the Oracle/ITA Division I Men’s Rankings, UNC’s Chapel Hill team was No. 1 from Feb. 17 through March 24. After North Carolina lost to Virginia last Sunday, Florida jumped to No. 1 and the Tar Heels fell to No. 2 in both polls. Both UNC programs were winners of the ITA Indoor Championships in February.

Stanford tops in 1970s-1990s
Stanford’s powerhouse teams in both genders have had numerous national champions. In five years – 1986, 1988-90, 1997 – the Cardinal won both the men’s and women’s team championships.

Famed former Stanford head coach Dick Gould noted that both Stanford teams were champions in 1978, when the women’s competition was called the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. The NCAA men’s championships began in 1946 and the women’s started in 1982.

Other than those five years, research did not show any conclusive list of when a school’s men’s and women’s DI teams were ranked No.  1. While the secret of how rare this achievement might lie in a slew of ranking archives, some tennis experts said they couldn’t specify when a college held the DI top spot for both genders.

Granger Huntress, a voter in the Tennis Channel/USTA College Tennis Top 25 Ranking, said, “To have both UNC teams ranked so highly is a tremendous accomplishment. Not only is this a rare feat, but it speaks to the hard work and dedication of these student-athletes and their coaches, not to mention the support staff. These past 12 months have not been easy and to come out playing such high-quality tennis by both programs harkens back to the days when Stanford dominated college tennis.”

Two members of the UNC Athletic Communications Department did some digging but were unable to lock down if the university or other schools had two teams atop the rankings at the same time. In February 2016, the UNC men were No. 1 while the women were reported to be No. 2.