After a comeback win against Virginia and a decisive victory against Virginia Tech last weekend, the No. 6 Blue Devils (14-3, 4-0 in the ACC) look to continue their upward momentum when they take on southern foes Georgia Tech (9-6, 3-2) Saturday and Clemson (9-5, 4-1) Sunday at Ambler Tennis Stadium.
“Both of these teams this weekend are really good,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “Georgia Tech had a good win last week…. Clemson is one of the best teams in the country and has gotten better as the season has gone on. We can’t have an emotional letdown.”
Duke found itself in a dangerous position when it faced an upset-minded Virginia team at Ambler Tennis Stadium last Friday.
“[In terms of doubles play], we’ve worked a lot this week on serving. We have got to do a better job at making first serves… and using our service games as weapons and not just relying on the return games,” Ashworth said. “Once you do that, you can put your opponents on the defensive a little earlier. When we are not making first serves, opponents can be aggressive off the returns.”
After dropping the doubles point to the Cavaliers, Duke won its next three singles matches to tie the score at 3-3 with one court remaining. On court one, Hanna Mar was able to defeat Virginia’s Stephanie Naura in a thrilling three-setter. Mar won a third-set tiebreaker 8-6 to give the Blue Devils the victory.
“She is feisty, she plays with a lot of energy,” Ashworth said. “She is never going to give up. She makes people earn their points. She makes people hit shots to beat her…. It’s tough to keep up with her. She has been a great inspiration [for our team playing up in the first spot].”
The Blue Devils will take on the Yellow Jackets Saturday at noon. Georgia Tech is 2-5 this season against ranked opponents and is coming off a decisive 4-0 victory against Maryland last weekend. The Yellow Jackets have one ranked singles player and one ranked doubles tandem. Elizabeth Kilborn ranks 89th in the nation and the team of Kendal Woodard and Megan Kurey rank 67th. Despite crushing Georgia Tech 7-0 last season, the Blue Devils know that this is a new season and things will likely be different.
“We are a completely different team and so are they,” Ashworth said. “Georgia Tech has a new coach and three new girls, and Clemson has five new girls…. We’ve got to take one match at a time, we are not looking at last year.”
Duke takes on Clemson, which is coming off a 6-1 victory against Boston College last weekend, less than 24 hours later. The Tigers currently have three ranked singles players in Yana Koroleva, Liz Jeukeng and Beatrice Gumulya at 16th, 42nd and 49th, respectively. The Blue Devils downed Clemson 6-1 on the road last season.
Sunday marks the Blue Devils’ last home match of the season.
“Historically, we have played really well at home,” Ashworth said. “We have tried to make this one of the tougher places to play in the country, and we need to keep doing that…. We’ve had really good crowd support and hopefully we get that. Either way, it comes off the energy of our team and they feel that energy when we are here.”