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Jamie Loeb of North Carolina is NCAA tennis champ

WACO, Texas (AP) — Jamie Loeb made it to the NCAA quarterfinals as a freshman. A year later, she is North Carolina’s first singles tennis champion.

Loeb defeated second-seeded and fellow sophomore Carol Zhao 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 on Monday, denying Stanford its 15th NCAA women’s singles title.

“I’m speechless. It feels amazing. Last year I was a little disappointed,” Loeb said. “To finish the way I did is just an amazing feeling.”

Zhao led 1-0 in the second set when play was suspended because of rain and lightning. The match was moved across the street to Baylor’s indoor facility, where Loeb held serve after play resumed to make it 1-1.

Loeb appeared to have momentum with a break for a 4-3 lead after a game filled with long rallies, but Zhao then broke to get even and won the second set on a point when Loeb double-faulted before coming back strong in the third set.

“It was a highly competitive match, and all credit to Jamie. She played a really good match from start to finish,” Zhao said. “I wasn’t able to take my chances in the third set and capitalize to make it a bit tighter.”

Within minutes after the match-ending point, even before the trophy presentation, players and spectators were evacuated from Baylor’s indoor facility because of a tornado warning in the area.

Everybody was moved safely to the nearby basketball arena, where they waited about an hour before returning to the indoor tennis complex for the awards and then the championship doubles match.

Zhao won her first four NCAA championship matches in straight sets. She lost the opening set in her semifinal match Sunday before coming back 6-4, 6-0 to advance.

Loeb needed three sets in five of her six matches in singles play. And that was after North Carolina made it to the quarterfinals in team play.

“It’s a grind, and I think physically, mentally, emotionally it’s really tough. But I think it’s survival of the fittest,” Loeb said. “I know I played a lot of three-set matches. … I’m proud of myself for pulling all of them out.”

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