Graduate student Jaeda Daniel reaches for the ball during the match against Notre Dame on Saturday, April 16, 2022 at Dail Outdoor Tennis Stadium. The Wolfpack won 7-0.

The NC State women’s tennis team finally finished its regular season, and while the team has achieved program highs while successfully cultivated a winning culture, a new challenge awaits the Pack at the ACC Championship.

The 2022 ACC Championship competition in Rome, Georgia will provide a litmus test for the Wolfpack, a chance to carry on its superb regular season play into the postseason. With the draw for the tournament released, the Pack now knows its potential path to success in the ACC Championship competition. While ranked losses late in the season have placed the Pack just outside the top four ACC teams, the squad is nevertheless prepared to face whatever challenges come its way head on.

Over the course of its historic season, NC State has held a spot in the top three nationally ranked teams since Feb. 23, just a month into its season at the time. Holding steady at ranks two and three for the rest of the season, the Pack dominated opponent after opponent, only falling to the occasional ranked conference foe.

Ending the season at 22-4 overall and 10-3 in conference play, late-season losses against UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke and Virginia have taken the Wolfpack out of the top four seeds in the tournament draw. This means that the Pack missed out on the double bye granted to UNC, Duke, Miami and Virginia.

The Pack is now slated to face off with either Clemson or Virginia Tech, two of the lowest seeds in the tournament. The women’s squad downed both teams easily, each by a score of 6-1, while on the road no less. This was par for the course for the Pack this season as the Tigers and Hokies were two of the many victims of NC State’s tear through the ACC.

Once the Pack plays Clemson or Virginia Tech in the second round on Thursday, April 21, the next challenge awaiting the victor is to beat Virginia to advance any further. The Cavaliers, which handed NC State its fourth and final loss of the season, represents the first real hurdle for the Pack in the tournament. In the loss, the Wolfpack won the doubles round, but only secured two singles matches to conclude its 4-3 defeat in Charlottesville, Virginia. In order to defeat Virginia, the Pack will have to continue its dominant doubles play and find ways to capture more singles victories.

Carrying on its top-notch doubles play and winning more singles courts is the key; not only to beating Virginia, but the nation’s best team in UNC, which awaits the Pack in the potential quarterfinal round if NC State can down the Cavaliers. UNC already holds two victories over the Wolfpack in a pair of tense, highly anticipated matches. If the two were to square off again, the rivalry matchup would be one of the biggest matches of the tournament and present a chance for the Pack to get revenge on the Heels.

If NC State was to beat its rivals UNC, the team will either face Duke or Miami, both of which have had successful runs through the ACC. While the Pack lost to Duke 4-3 at the beginning of April, it did manage to beat the Hurricanes 4-3 in early March. While both would provide tough opposition for a potential finals matchup, the Pack won’t get there unless the squad plays up to its maximum potential.

NC State has consistently and effortlessly delivered some of the best doubles play in the nation all season long. The Pack has now won the doubles point in all but one of its matches in the entire season, which is largely due to its excellent doubles lineup and nationally ranked duos that excel at controlling the court, communicating and ending points quickly.

The Pack finished the regular season with two ranked pairs that include No. 3-ranked graduate student Jaeda Daniel and senior Nell Miller and the No. 22-ranked sophomore duo of Amelia Rajecki and Abigail Rencheli. While not ranked, the third doubles pair of freshman Priska Nugroho and sophomore Sophie Abrams play just as important of a role as the first two pairs, all contributing to the excellent doubles showings that routinely put NC State up 1-0 in its matches.

While doubles play is the Pack’s strongest asset, its singles lineup is no pushover either. The top half of its lineup boasts three nationally ranked players, all of whom have solidified themselves at the one, two and three positions. No. 11 Daniel leads the Wolfpack on court one and is followed by No. 40 Abigail Rencheli in the number two slot. At three is freshman sensation Priska Nugroho, who will enter the tournament on a seven match win streak that she’ll obviously look to extend.

The second half of the Pack’s lineup has seen recent changes, however. Three players, Rajecki, Miller and Abrams will round out the bottom half in some order, but all three have shown to deliver in singles throughout the season, no matter which court they play on.

If NC State can continue to claim doubles points as well as perform in singles, it has the ability to make a deep run in the championship. However, failing to finish matches strong and put up solid singles performances across the board against ACC teams have led to its four losses in the regular season. If the Wolfpack can finish matches against the same teams it has taken losses to, NC State will emerge victorious against the best of the rest in the ACC.

NC State is set to face either Clemson or Virginia Tech on Thursday, April 21 at 3:30 p.m. in Rome, Georgia.