Duke women's tennis falls to UCLA in NCAA quarterfinals
In early February, the Blue Devils fell behind 3-0, but used a remarkable comeback to stun UCLA 4-3 to claim the ITA Team Indoor Championship.
The Bruins got their revenge Saturday.
Fourth-seeded Duke fell 4-2 to fifth-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Team Championship at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. As they have all season, the Bruins dominated in doubles, putting enormous pressure on the Blue Devils to win four of the six singles matches.
Although Duke got resounding straight-set victories from reliable postseason competitors Rachel Kahan and Hannah Mar to take a 2-1 lead, the other Blue Devils came up short in their hotly-contested matches, allowing UCLA to advance to the semifinals.
“When we played them earlier in the year, even though it was a little different format, we were still able to win four singles matches,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “I’ve said all year they’re one of the best teams in the country and they’re one of two or three teams that could win this thing.”
Duke (27-5) never found its rhythm in doubles, getting crushed in all three matches. The Bruins (25-2) showed why they have not lost a doubles point yet this season.
The Blue Devils’ third-best doubles team of junior Annie Mulholland and freshman Chalena Scholl fell 8-3 to the team of Courtney Dolehide and Chanelle Van Nguyen in a roller-coaster match. The Duke tandem dropped the first four games of the match before reeling off three consecutive games of their own. But Dolehide and Van Nguyen quickly found their footing, taking the next five games to win the match.
The best Blue Devil doubles tandem did not fare much better. Sophomore Beatrice Capra and Mar fell 8-5 to Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady. The Duke duo fell behind 2-0 but quickly tied the match at 2-2 before succumbing to the superior play of the Bruins. The loss secured the doubles point for UCLA.
Duke’s second-best doubles team of junior Ester Goldfeld and freshman Alyssa Smith was trailing Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips 5-2 when the doubles point was won.
“I think [UCLA] hit the ball harder than we’ve seen all year,” Ashworth said. “I think that knocked us back a little bit. I thought we definitely still had chances going into singles. We did everything we could to play the best we could, but they were just better than us in the bigger points.”
Despite the team's poor performance in doubles, Kahan and Mar did their best to swing the momentum.
Kahan—a redshirt junior—remained undefeated for her career in NCAA Team Championship play, knocking off Kaitlin Ray 6-1, 6-2 to earn the Blue Devils’ first point of the match. Kahan won a point in every match of the Championship without losing a set.
Mar bounced back from her doubles loss, beating McPhillips 6-1, 6-3 in convincing fashion. Like Kahan, Mar was dominant in the Championship, earning a point individually with straight-set singles victories in Duke’s last three matches.
After falling behind 2-1, the Bruins showed more resolve than they did in February. In the matchup of the teams’ best singles players, Anderson won a first set tiebreaker against Capra to take back the momentum for her team.
Shortly after, Anderson’s teammate Van Nguyen finished off Scholl after two tight sets, claiming a 6-4, 7-5 victory to knot the match at two. Growing in confidence after the first-set tiebreaker, Anderson pulled away from Capra to win the second set 6-3 and quickly put the Blue Devils within a point of elimination.
Although she won the first set against Harrison 7-5, Smith was unable to sustain her strong play, falling 6-1 in the second set. In the deciding third set, with her team counting on her, Smith was unable to mount a comeback after falling behind early, dropping the set 6-3 and ending the match.
When the match ended, Goldfeld was trailing 1-0 in the third set against Brady after the pair split the first two sets.
“[I liked] our overall effort and fight [in singles],” Ashworth said. “Across the board we made them earn points and earn the three matches they won. That’s all we can ask for against a team like that.”
Just as in the ACC Championship against Virginia, the Blue Devils came up a little short in multiple matches and suffered a crushing postseason loss. Nonetheless, the season was widely successful for a powerhouse program that will return everyone except Mar and Marianne Jodoin.