The men’s basketball team wasn’t the only Duke team to take down Syracuse after a disappointing defeat to a conference rival earlier in the week.
Following their 5-2 defeat to No. 13 Virginia Friday, the No. 1 Blue Devils rebounded well, beating Syracuse 6-1 Sunday to win their first match in conference play.
“It was a tough match up [at Virginia], but I told them we have to use it as a learning experience," head coach Jamie Ashworth said. "If we don’t get anything out of it and it’s just a loss, then it’s even worse. We said that today was the first step of trying to be better.”
Duke (9-1, 1-1 in the ACC) got off to a solid start against Syracuse (0-7, 0-2), taking the doubles point 2-0 as Annie Mulholland and Ester Goldfield took down Amanda Rodgers and Breana Bachini 8-3. Alyssa Smith and Mariane Jodoin finished off the point, defeating Rhiann Newborn and Komal Safdar 8-4.
Despite Duke taking the doubles point in just two matches, the contests were much closer than they seemed on paper. The Orange came out strong and gave the Blue Devils trouble early on.
“They came out with a lot more emotion than we did,” Ashworth said. “If you watched a lot of the points, they were just slapping balls and hitting fearless. They just played with nothing to lose, but we held our composure and were able to win the doubles point.
Surprisingly, the match that gave the Blue Devils the most trouble was the one between Duke’s sixth-ranked team of Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar and the unranked duo of Maddie Kobelt and Valeria Salazar. Duke went down 4-6 at one point in the match, but managed to tie the set back up at six games apiece before Capra and Mar's teammates sealed the doubles point.
“They were playing really aggressively so that kind of put us on the defense right away," Mar said. "That’s not what we like to do. We like to be the more offensive team. They were that team this time, so that gave us trouble, but we were battling.”
Despite Syracuse being the more aggressive side during doubles, Duke came out with a lot more control in singles play, and got off to a nice start by winning the first set in all six of their matches.
Mar got the team on the board first in singles, winning her match 6-2, 6-1 against Syracuse's Newborn. Mar, the No. 42 singles player in the country, put in an absolutely dominant performance after a shaky doubles match.
“I had a really good start to the singles match and played each point really intensely and did not let a single point get away,” Mar said. “I played well and I’m happy with how I played today. I was able to get a good lead and hold onto it.”
Jodoin was the next Blue Devil to take care of business, defeating Safdar 6-1, 6-4 to give Duke a 3-0 lead. Goldfeld then sealed the victory for Duke with a 6-4, 6-2 victory versus Rodgers.
The Blue Devils ended the day with a 6-1 victory, as Mulholland won her match 6-1, 6-4, and Alyssa Smith won hers 7-6, 6-4. Chalena Scholl was the only Duke player to not win, dropping a well-fought match in a third-set tiebreak 6-4, 5-7, 9-11 to Kobelt.
“I said the same thing: that they’re going to come out and swing…. and play with the same kind of emotion that they did [in doubles], but in the singles we were honestly just deeper than they were,” Ashworth said.
Its victory over Syracuse gave Duke a much needed conference win, as it looks to forget about its opening loss to Virginia and move forward with the rest of its season, especially as the team faces difficult matchups next weekend against No. 22 Notre Dame and No. 6 North Carolina.
“It’s a really good thing for us to play a good match right after that loss to get back on track of doing well—playing good matches, having confidence in ourselves and not letting that one loss get the best of us,” Mar said.