Despite the noisy bandbox nature of Georgia’s indoor courts and the pressurized environment of a National Championship match, Brian Boland said he was pretty comfortable Tuesday afternoon. A proverbial ace in the hole can put a coach to ease like that.
Boland stared out at two courts with two trump cards in Athens. At No. 6, he had junior Henrik Wiersholm, winner of 25 consecutive singles matches at one point and a 32-1 career record, in action. Wiersholm had finished off a 4-3 win against this same North Carolina team in the regular season.
And on No. 5? The ultimate closer. Senior J.C. Aragone provided the deciding point in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship against Ohio State in February. He also sealed the ACC Tournament title in a tense 4-3 match against Wake Forest with a third-set victory. So it was fitting for Aragone to wrap up the trifecta with a win against UNC that gave the Hoos a 4-2 victory and the National Championship.
“I always call this guy the biggest warrior that I’ve ever coached,” Boland said. “I mean J.C. Aragone, all he does is come through. He’s Mr. Clutch. When he was one of the last matches on, I was pretty comfortable.”
Boland may have been comfortable, but Aragone admitted he was not. Not entirely at least.
Despite being in so many big spots in his career, the senior felt himself speeding up in the moment. He tried to slow down and focus on what can be considered a team mantra. Control what you can control.
”I was getting very anxious and I was rushing a little bit,” Aragone said. ”I really needed to take my time and slow down. In those moments, you get so anxious it’s so easy to try to go for a winner or try to come in at the wrong time. So I was really trying to restrain myself and make sure I hit the right shots and if the guy comes up with something big, then that’s out of my control.”
Aragone calmed his excitement and found a rhythm. That led to several solid points and well-constructed approach shots to put away points. Throw in some strong shots like a backhand lob for a winner and the crosscourt winner from a sharp angle and Aragone sealed the deal with relative ease in a 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 victory.
That triumph let Aragone end his career with 11 straight singles wins. He had more than 100 in his career and led the team this year with 37 singles victories. That’s on top of being a two-time ACC Tournament MVP and the ultimate closer in the team’s title matches this season.
That experience helped a little bit in the moment, but not as much as might be assumed. You still have to go win the match.
”Look to be honest, none of that matters when you’re serving up match point and it’s for an NCAA title,” Aragone said. “That kind of all goes out the window and you’ve just got to sack up and toss the ball and hit it because it’s not going to go in on its own. I mean I’m sure it helped a little bit, but at the end of the day you’ve still got to understand what the situation is and go through my head how I was going to play it, what I was going to do, and take it one point at a time.”