The No. 3 Blue Devils were back in action Saturday at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center, cruising past the Tribe of William and Mary in a decisive 7-0 victory. A loud crowd came out to cheer on the team in their first match of the Spring season.
Duke’s top doubles team of senior captain Mary Clayton and sophomore Ester Goldfeld demolished the No. 3 pair in the nation, Maria Belaya and Jeltje Loomans, leading the team to its sixth straight victory over the Tribe.
The victory adds to the team’s 16-0 record for home openers under head coach Jamie Ashworth.
“I was really happy with our doubles,” Ashworth said. “Before the match we talked about having a lot of energy, a lot of purpose in every shot that we hit. Not just hit shots to hit shots, but everything we do has a plan and a purpose, and to play with passion.”
The Blue Devils’ energy was evident, as all three doubles courts opened up with early 3-0 leads. Clayton and Goldfeld started off with strong baseline play, keeping the ball deep and their opponents subdued at the baseline. Despite being down 0-40 with a 4-0 lead, the pair managed to come back and win the game with a powerful forehand swinging volley by Clayton to clinch the fifth game of the set.
They managed to carry this all-important momentum to an 8-1 victory against Belaya and Loomans.
“I think it was a great start to the season to take out the No. 3,” Clayton said. “It obviously gives us a lot of confidence to feed off of for the next couple of matches.”
Just a court over, sophomore Annie Mulholland and junior Marianne Jodoin managed to hold off the Tribe’s Anik Cepeda and Leeza Nemchinov, who looked like they were making a comeback late in the set. Strong net play from the pair secured them a solid 8-2 victory. The two decided courts elected to end the third match as per a new rule implemented by the ITA—the last match did not matter because the Blue Devils had already earned the doubles point. Duke’s Hanna Mar and Monica Turewicz were ahead 6-3 when play was stopped.
Following an easy win in doubles, Goldfeld got off to a slow start in singles, Ashworth said. After being down 4-2 in the first and coming back to tie it up at four, Goldfeld missed a critical break of serve that would have put her ahead 5-4 and into a position to serve for the set. She recovered, however, to take the set 7-5.
“She did a good job competing and a good job getting herself back into both sets,” Ashworth said. “But she knows that she has to be better than that.”
Goldfeld’s second set was not much easier, as she got down 3-1, but she managed to rally back to a 6-4 victory, breaking serve twice and winning four consecutive games to take a straight-set victory.
Assistant coach Mar Spicjaric spoke to Goldfeld during a change-over about needing to match her opponent’s energy.
“Every team that comes out—we’re their biggest match, and they’re going to fight as hard as they can, and we need to do the same,” Goldfeld said.
The Blue Devils accomplished what they came out to do—secure their first victory of the season. Moving forward, the team hopes to build off this win and continue improving. As far as the rest of the season goes, Ashworth does not like to speculate, but is confident in his girls’ ability to execute their game plan.
“Getting the first win is the most important,” he said. “If we do the things that we talked about and play with energy in a match like that, then we should win, and we should take care of what we’re supposed to and we were able to do that.”