The 12th-seeded North Carolina men's tennis team will play fifth-seeded Mississippi in the NCAA Tournament's round of 16 on Friday in Tulsa, Okla.Carolina defeated arch-rival Duke 4-2 at the indoor courts at UNC on Sunday to advance.Regardless of the outcome this weekend, no one can say this Carolina team has not been tested at the highest level. The Tar Heels have played a grueling schedule, which included, at the time Carolina played them: No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 Mississippi, No. 4 Baylor, No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 21 VCU, No. 35 Auburn, No. 29 Wake Forest, No. 7 Florida State, No. 1 Virginia and No. 25 Miami.In stretch of seven consecutive matches in February, UNC played No. 41 Rice, Ohio State, Mississippi, Baylor, Notre Dame, VCU and Auburn. Ranked teams, every one."It's helped us tremendously," Carolina coach Sam Paul said. "That stretch right there set the tone for the whole year. Obviously the ACC is very tough, too, so we know we have seen the best teams in the country."There is not anything that is going to surprise us when we go out there. We've seen it all."When UNC entered the match against No. 4 Baylor on Feb. 16, the Tar Heels had a 4-3 record and shaky confidence. But, starting right there with the Bears, UNC went 15-1 in its next 16 matches. The sole loss came to top-ranked Virginia."That Baylor match was the turning point of our season," Paul said. "We gained a lot of confidence and went on a pretty good streak. If you have too tough a schedule, it could collapse you if you go on losing. It will pay dividends down the road. But, if you have a lot of talent, and the guys stay committed to keep working, you can see it in a short amount of time."Mississippi defeated UNC 4-1 in their first meeting, and the Rebels will present a difficult challenge in the rematch on Friday."Ole Miss has a great program, and this is probably one of their best teams they have ever put on the court," Paul said. "Right now, we're a much better team than going back to February, when we played them. We came into that match with two straight losses. We were still finding ourselves."We have new doubles combinations right now than we had then. We're definitely looking forward to playing this next match."Paul has a talented trio of sophomores in Chris Kearney, Stefan Hardy and Clay Donato, but he also has depth. That includes some fine players and even better leaders, Paul said.Tennis is an individual sport but, Paul said, this group of young men has formed a true team, rooting one another on no matter who gets to play on a given day."We've got eight seniors who have been an absolute treasure," Paul said. "They have been great student athletes. Off the court, seven of the eight have above a 3.0 grade point average -- and in very difficult degrees. You have economics majors, three business majors, a chemistry major in that group. Those guys have been so committed to their academics."And we've known each other. We've been through so many things from their first day. It's so fun. They know our philosophy and what we believe in. We're all on the same page."Now, they all hope that, when they turn that page on Friday, it will lead to yet another exciting chapter in a memorable season. "It's a tough job for me to decide who is going to play," Paul said. "We can have our number 12 or 13 walk in and beat our six or our five. They all push each other. That goes back to our senior leadership, where they are all pushing the envelope, trying to get better."I'm just so happy for the seniors," Paul said. "They've given their heart and soul, and now they're going to be rewarded for it. We're excited about keeping this journey going. We know we faced everybody in the country, so we want to keep getting better. Our goals are not just to make it to the Sweet 16. We want to go further in the tournament than that."