Duke women's tennis advances to Round of 16 with a comeback victory
Duke dug itself out of yet another deficit to make a trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 16 a little bit sweeter.
The Blue Devils (16-9) trailed 16th-seeded Texas Tech (20-7) 3-2 with two matches yet to finish Sunday afternoon at McLeod Tennis Center in Lubbock, Texas. But with wins by No. 29 Hanna Mar and Marianne Jodoin in three-set matches, Duke surged past the Red Raiders to take a 4-3 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
With the win, the Blue Devils advance to the Round of 16 for the 21st time in their last 25 tournament appearances.
“When we went onto the court, no one thought we were going to win, but we only need us, the people here, to believe that we’re going to win, and I think we proved that,” Jodoin said. “People are going to say, ‘Wow Duke is in the Sweet 16 with only five players’ but we know we deserve this spot.”
Duke began the match the same way its first-round contest began—by forfeiting the match’s first point and pulling even by winning the doubles point. Mar and Mary Clayton defeated the nation’s 16th-ranked doubles team of Samantha Adams and Keena Kilgo 8-4 and Jodoin and Annie Mulholland defeated Nikki Sanders and Rashmi Teltumbde by the same score to tie the match at 1-1 heading into singles play.
“Going into the match, we knew that doubles was definitely one of their stronger points, and I think that we stole the doubles point,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “I could tell that Texas Tech was a little bit nervous, and our girls took advantage and jumped on them right away.”
Mar and Jodoin both dropped the first set of their singles matches, but as the pair battled back to force a decisive third set, Duke’s Nicole Lipp fell 6-0, 6-1 at the fifth singles position and Mulholland defeated Kilgo 6-3, 7-5 to keep the match even at two points apiece.
The Red Raiders appeared to be in a position to win when Teltumbde outlasted Clayton to take a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory and put her team one win away from advancing.
Mar fell behind 3-1 in the third set, but broke serve and won the final five games of the match to notch a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory against Adams, the 80th-ranked singles player in the nation.
“This team is unbelievable, every single girl,” Jodoin said. “We are fighting on the sideline, on the court—it’s unbelievable. I’ve never been in a situation when I can look on the side and say that I am going to do this for [my team].”
With the match knotted at 3-3, Jodoin’s showdown with Elizabeth Ullathorne would decide the contest. Jodoin broke to take a 3-2 lead in the final set and extended her advantage to 5-2. But Ullathorne made a late run, winning the next game and taking a 30-15 lead with a chance to break back to 5-4.
Jodoin fought the game back to deuce, where Ullathorne was able to stave off Jodoin’s first match point. But Ullathorne sent a forehand long on Jodoin’s second match point to give the Blue Devils the contest.
“You don’t get the chance to be in the final match very often, and I got the chance to prove myself,” Jodoin said. “As a tennis player, you want to be in that position so badly.”
Duke advances to the Round of 16 in Urbana, Ill., where the Blue Devils will face top-seeded Florida Friday.