After being knocked out of the ACC tournament last year by Virginia Tech, Duke evened the score by taking them down at the Hokie’s home court.
Top-ranked Duke defeated Virginia Tech 5-2 in Blacksburg, Va. on Saturday afternoon, and then won Sunday at Wake Forest 6-1. The Blue Devils (13-1, 5-1 in the ACC) lead the Hokies 19-1 in their all-time series, with the only loss coming last year in the ACC tournament. Even though Virginia Tech (9-6, 2-4) has experience beating some of the players on Duke’s team, the Blue Devils took command of the court with a full roster, something that they did not have last time they took on Virginia Tech.
“I thought we played ok, but we were a little too defensive and played like we had to defend something.,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “We have to do a better job of being aggressive and trying to make a statement every time we play and not just hoping our opponents miss.”
Just as with classes, the Blue Devils' practice regimen was affected by the weather this week as they struggled to practice their game on outdoor courts in the same format they played their matches.
“We didn’t get a chance to prepare as well as we would have liked with the weather all week, and we didn’t hit on the courts before we played the match,” Ashworth said. “We adapted to the situation as best we could, but it will be better tomorrow.”
The Blue Devil’s started out strong in doubles taking the lead early on. But the Hokies fought back to tie up the scores on the top two courts. That did not bother the duo of freshman Alyssa Smith and senior Marianne Jodoin, who closed out their match against Tea Ivanovic and Isel Martinez-Marcos 8-3 to continue their five-match win streak.
“We just have to run through the finish line. We got up early and let ourselves hang around and the matches got close,” Ashworth said. “We just have to do a better job of finishing what we set up.”
With the top team of senior Hanna Mar and sophomore Beatrice Capra close to losing, it was the tandem of juniors Ester Goldfeld and Annie Mulholland who clinched the doubles point for Duke with an 8-6 victory over Carol Kahoun and Raluca Mita.
“We got a little bit on our heels, and we played more hoping that they would miss.” Ashworth said. “When we're playing our best we're playing aggressive and we're playing going after our shots. We're not playing not to lose. We are playing to win. We played too much not to lose.”
In singles, Smith and senior Rachel Kahn had difficulty in the beginning of their matches, but the first Blue Devil off the court was Kahn who won handily 6-4, 6-0 against Mita. She was followed by Smith who beat Martinez-Marcos 6-4, 6-2. Jodoin clinched the match for Duke not long after with a 6-2, 7-6 victory over Kahoun
“We let Virginia Tech just hang around and eventually we won the match, but we just need to be a much more aggressive team than we were today,” Ashworth said. “We need to play like we’re going after something. Were not defending anything. We’re playing a little bit too defensive.”
After losing a close first set, Mar ended up upending Kelly Williford 6-7, 7-6, 1-0 (5). The second-ranked Capra had trouble with her match after taking an early lead 6-3. Capra lost her momentum and the match 3-6, 6-3, 1-0 (7). Mulholland also lost 7-5, 7-5 to Sansita Nandakumar in a tough match.
The Blue Devils continued their success on the road against the Demon Deacons (8-5, 1-5 ACC). For the second time, Mullholland and Goldfeld won the first doubles match, and the duo of Jodoin and Smith clinched the point.
Capra had the day off for singles competition, but Duke had little trouble closing out the match. Only Smith dropped her singles point in a close tiebreaker that ended 6-4, 5-7, 1-0 (10-7).
The Blue Devils now have a break from ACC play, traveling to Bradenton, Fla. to take on Old Dominion Wednesday.