The Blue Devils have returned much healthier than they were during an injury-plagued NCAA tournament run last season, but the team struggled in its first tournament of the fall.
After a summer of training, four Duke players competed in the Duke Fab Four Invitational in Cary, N.C. this past weekend. Although his team earned a second-place finish in doubles and fourth- and sixth-place finishes in singles, head coach Jamie Ashworth said he was not wholly satisfied with his team's performance.
"Physically, mentally, emotionally I don't think we could have performed as well as we could have," Ashworth said. "At the same time, on the positive side of that, it's September."
Playing her first tournament for Duke since fracturing her wrist last spring, Ester Goldfeld placed fourth in the white singles draw. Goldfeld won two doubles matches and one singles match Friday, advancing to the finals of the black doubles draw and the quarterfinals of the singles draw. Goldfeld then won her first match Saturday and lost the second before falling to Florida's Olivia Janowicz 6-1, 6-0 in the backdraw.
Ashworth said that although Goldfeld had her share of growing pains throughout the weekend, he was pleased with her first performance of the season.
“[Ester] hasn’t had a lot of match play in the last five months.” Ashworth said. “She came out and played decently. She moved her feet pretty well, and I thought that she and Marianne had chances to win the doubles [draw] that they were in.”
Goldfeld and senior Marianne Jodoin placed second in the black doubles draw Saturday. The pair started out by beating Erin Stephens and Iris Verboven of Ole Miss in a pro set Friday morning. After defeating North Carolina's Caroline Price and Whitney Kay to advance to finals of the black doubles draw, Goldfeld and Jodoin lost 7-5 in a tiebreak to Florida’s Belinda Woolcock and Sofie Oyen.
Jodoin handily beat Furman's Alex Moreno-Kaste 6-2, 6-1 Friday afternoon after her doubles victories. Her winning streak didn’t last, as the Canadian senior lost to Ole Miss’s Erin Stephens 7-6, 6-1 Saturday morning after losing her doubles match.
Senior Hanna Mar and freshman Alyssa Smith came together to take third place in white doubles draw consolation. The pair lost to doubles teams from Alabama and North Carolina back-to-back Friday, but came together on Saturday morning to beat a duo from Oklahoma State 8-4 in a pro-set.
Mar placed sixth in the blue singles draw losing to Kourtney Keegan of Florida 6-0, 6-2 Sunday morning.
In her first collegiate tournament, freshman Alyssa Smith placed third in the consolations of the blue singles draw, digging in her heels to beat Ansley Speaks of Furman 7-6, 7-5 Sunday morning.
Although Smith struggled in her first collegiate matches, Ashworth said he suspects the freshman has plenty of room to grow.
“When you look to Friday to how [Smith] played, [Sunday] she probably improved the most.” Ashworth said. “I think that she will take what she learned and will keep improving.”
As the team prepares for its next tournament in two weeks at the Rivieria All-American in Pacific Palisades, Calif., Ashworth did not hesitate to point out that his team has room to improve.
“I think there is a hole. I don’t think we played as well as we are capable of,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “The matches gave us different things we need to work on over the next two weeks before we play again.”