Duke women's tennis swept by North Carolina in NCAA tournament ouster
When Duke faced its Tobacco Road rivals exactly one month ago in Chapel Hill, the third-ranked Tar Heels thoroughly dominated the Blue Devils despite dropping the doubles point en route to a 5-2 victory.
Friday morning, as the teams met for a rematch in the NCAA tournament Round of 16, it was a different day but nearly the same story.
No. 2 seed North Carolina pounded 15th-seeded Duke 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals and end the Blue Devils' season. After being without the services of junior Samantha Harris during the tournament's opening weekend in Durham last Friday and Saturday, Duke's No. 1 singles player returned to action at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., at the University of Georgia Friday.
But Harris and her teammates were no match for one of the nation's perennial powers.
“We are better off than we were a year ago,” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke.com. “We did a good job of getting here. No way we were satisfied with getting here, but I think we have a future to keep building on."
In the doubles portion of the contest, the Tar Heels (33-2) jumped on their opponents early and did not let off the gas pedal. Harris and sophomore Ellyse Hamlin dropped the first three games of their match and could never recover from the hole as North Carolina's Sara Daavettila and Makenna Jones picked up an easy 6-1 win.
And over on Court 1, the fourth-ranked pairing of Jessie Aney and Hayley Carter made quick work of their Duke opposition, knocking off the No. 42 duo of Kaitlyn McCarthy and Meible Chi 6-2 to seal the first point of the match.
From there, the match transitioned to singles, and just as they did last month, the Tar Heels proved the far superior side.
No. 80 Harris, who finished the season 2-8 in her final 10 singles matches, struggled mightily against Carter—the nation's No. 2 individual performer. Carter dropped just three games on her way to a 6-0, 6-3 victory that put North Carolina within two points of its fourth NCAA quarterfinal appearance in the last five years.
The winningest Blue Devil singles player, No. 43 Chi picked up a pair of wins in her first-ever NCAA tournament matches last weekend. But against 18th-ranked Daavettila, the Weston, Fla., native did not fare any better than Harris. Chi fell in short order, losing 6-2, 6-1.
On Courts 4, 5 and 6, No. 99 McCarthy, Alyssa Smith and Hamlin all needed at least 10 games to pick up the opening set of their matches. McCarthy, who entered Friday having won 21 singles matches in a row, was leading No. 74 Alexa Graham 7-5, 4-1 when the Tar Heels ultimately clinched the match.
That took place on Court 3, where No. 35 Aney took down No. 55 Chalena Scholl 6-4, 6-4 to eliminate Duke. After the pair was tied at four games apiece in the opening set, Aney won the final two games to seize control of the match.
Although the Blue Devils' season as a team is over, their head coach believes that they are in position to improve next year, as Duke will return four of its six regulars—including three of its top four singles players.
"The biggest thing I thought was we started the season with a bunch of individuals, and right now it's a true family," Ashworth said. "They really did a good job of playing for each other. That's the toughest thing to see end—knowing how much they put in for each other.”
With the Blue Devils eliminated, a trio of Blue Devils will now turn their attention to NCAA singles and doubles tournaments, which take place next week in Athens. Scholl and Chi earned at-large selections for the individual competition, and the pairing of Chi and McCarthy were named third alternates in the doubles event.
“[I'll tell them to] just take advantage of the opportunity and have fun with it and learn from it,” Ashworth said of the individual tournament. "We have a senior who has never played in the individuals before, and we have a freshman—this will be her first time. So on both ends of the spectrum, we are there.”