The NC State women’s tennis team was robbed of a potentially magical season due to the season’s cancellation on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the ACC being loaded with talent, the Wolfpack was poised to make a run at some silverware this season.
At the time of the season’s cancellation, the Wolfpack was looking toward a two-match homestand against Syracuse and Boston College. After putting away the Orange and the Eagles, the Wolfpack would have faced a tough stretch in the schedule.
A primary point of speculation in NC State’s remaining schedule would have to be the five-match stretch in which it was set to face five straight opponents in the NCAA’s top 25: No. 18 Miami, No. 2 Florida State, No. 10 Georgia Tech, No. 7 Duke and top-ranked UNC-Chapel Hill, respectively. Let’s take a look at whether the Wolfpack could have run the gauntlet.
First Key Match: Friday, March 27 at No. 18 Miami
The Pack’s first test of this five-match gauntlet would have been a road trip to Coral Gables, Florida to take on the Hurricanes. Although Miami was certainly a formidable opponent, NC State held the advantage in terms of demonstrated talent, so the Wolfpack most likely would have maintained its undefeated away record.
Second Key Match: Sunday, March 29 at No. 2 Florida State
In what surely would have been a hotly contested battle, Florida State might have barely beaten out NC State. This assessment is based on the Pack’s short two-day break between its match at Miami and this matchup.
This match can also be evaluated based upon matches played against common opponents between the two teams. For example, UNC beat the Pack and the Seminoles, though FSU kept it closer with a 4-3 scoreline as opposed to the Wolfpack’s 4-1 loss.
Additionally, Florida State won against both No. 4 Texas and No. 13 Virginia, two squads which defeated the Pack earlier in the season. Thus, Florida State would likely oust NC State by a razor-thin margin, potentially handing State its first road loss of the season.
Third Key Match: Friday, April 3 against No. 10 Georgia Tech
After a potential loss in Tallahassee, Florida, the Wolfpack would have headed back to Raleigh for a two-match homestand, starting with No. 10 Georgia Tech. The two squads had differing results against two common opponents: No. 9 Georgia and No. 13 Virginia. The Pack bested the Bulldogs 4-1, who defeated the Yellow Jackets 4-1, but Georgia Tech defeated the Cavaliers 4-3 unlike the Pack, which fell 4-3.
Perhaps the biggest difference-maker here is the disparity between their records against top-25 opponents. In this regard, State is above .500 at 5-3, whereas the Yellow Jackets fall below that mark at 4-5. Taking these facts into account, the Wolfpack likely would have walked away with a hard-fought victory.
Fourth Key Match: Wednesday, April 8 against No. 7 Duke
Although certainly a formidable opponent, the Blue Devils were scheduled to run a gauntlet of their own in ACC play leading up to their matchup with NC State in Raleigh, consecutively facing five ranked opponents, including No. 1 UNC and No. 2 FSU.
Even though Duke was a top-10 team itself, any team would undoubtedly start to fatigue towards the end of such a stretch, allowing NC State to potentially amplify its initially slim advantage in quality.
Fifth Key Match: Friday, April 10 at No. 1 UNC-Chapel Hill
In a reversal of narratives from the Duke match, NC State would have likely fallen to the top-ranked Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels were slated for a lighter schedule leading up to the match against the Wolfpack, and most likely would have taken care of business against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana and would have been able to do so again on the road against Clemson.
This pre-match workload is contrasted by NC State’s gauntlet of four consecutive ranked opponents with the Tar Heels making it five in a row. Despite a valiant effort in what surely would have been an exhilarating match, the Pack would have likely been defeated by the Tar Heels.
After wrapping up the regular season, the Pack would have set its sights on the ACC Tournament. With a projected 10-3 conference record at the end of regular season play, the Wolfpack likely would have landed a third or fourth seed in the conference tournament, as a similar conference record of 11-3 secured a fourth seed last season.
After potentially disposing of a middle seed in the quarterfinals, perhaps Wake Forest or Georgia Tech, it certainly would have been probable to see a more well-rested NC State squad make a run for the conference title by defeating the likes of Duke, Florida State or UNC to reach the championship match.
NCAA Team Tournament
In addition to a potential conference championship, NC State was poised for a successful NCAA Tournament. Although a potentially underwhelming 8-5 record against top-25 opponents curbs thoughts of a Final Four run, the Pack would not have been pushovers. It is entirely possible that the Pack could have progressed to either the round of 16 or the round of eight depending on seeding.
NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships
Starting with the singles tournament, three Wolfpack members would have been in contention: No. 22 sophomore Alana Smith, No. 32 senior Anna Rogers and No. 37 senior Adriana Reami. Rogers would be the only player of the three with experience in the NCAA Singles Championship, as Smith and Reami would have made their debuts in the tournament.
Given each player’s performance prior to the season’s cancellation, it is not hard to imagine each progressing fairly far in the bracket, probably bowing out around the round of 16.
In doubles play, there would likely be two duos representing the Pack, Rogers and Smith, ranked as the No. 2 doubles pair in the nation, and Reami and junior Jaeda Daniel, ranked as the No. 21 pairing.
Rogers and Smith made it to the quarterfinals last season, and with their additional experience, they would have possibly advanced to the final four. Reami and Daniel might have struggled on the other hand, having no prior experience playing together in this tournament. The pair might have been able to pull out a win in the first round, adding to what would have been a very successful season for NC State women’s tennis.