The No. 11 Blue Devils took on one of their toughest opponents of the season Wednesday in crosstown rival, No. 1 North Carolina.

With only five players able to compete, Duke (14-7, 5-4 in the ACC) came up short, falling 4-0 to the Tar Heels (22-2, 8-1) at Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center in Chapel Hill.

With injured sophomore Ester Goldfeld unable to compete due to an injury, the Blue Devils got off to a shaky start, forfeiting the No. 3 doubles match and getting down early on the two remaining courts. Junior Marianne Jodoin and sophomore Annie Mulholland faced the No. 52 doubles team Caroline Price and Whitney Kay of North Carolina. The Blue Devils fell behind 5-0 early on, and could not manage to make a comeback, dropping the set 8-1.

“We just got off to a bad start in doubles and that hurt us,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “We just can’t afford to lose doubles matches that quick.”

On court one, the No. 14 pair of Mary Clayton and junior Hanna Mar took on the Tar Heels’ No. 31 Lauren McHale and Ashely Dai, but play was stopped at 5-5 with the doubles point already decided. In addition to the doubles match, the Blue Devils had to forfeit the No. 6 singles position, giving North Carolina a significant advantage. Already behind 2-0 going into singles play, Duke’s primary focus was looking forward.

“You just have to forget the doubles,” Ashworth said. “Even when we win, we have to forget it.”
In the early going, Duke did just that. After falling behind 4-1 in the first set, No. 25 Mar battled her way back to a 7-5 first-set victory against North Carolina’s Gina Suarez-Malaguti, ranked No. 9 in the nation.

On court three, sophomore Annie Mulholland stayed neck-and-neck with Kay and pulled ahead to secure the first set 6-4. She went on to drop the second set 6-0 and was behind in the third when play was stopped following losses for Mary Clayton and Nicole Lipp that secured the win for North Carolina. Mar led 2-1 in the second set when play was stopped.

Ashworth said that the team did not take advantage of opportunities on big points.

Overall, the team showed signs of improvement from its February loss against the Tar Heels, competing much more aggressively against the top-ranked North Carolina squad. The Blue Devils were counting on a much longer match, which would have allowed the girls to put more pressure on the Tar Heels. But with a 2-0 deficit going into singles, the team was unable to take a lead.

“We were just in a hole,” Ashworth said. “But the matches were a lot closer this time than they were the last time we played them.”