Top-ranked Duke did not let the bright lights of ESPN faze them.
Kicking off ESPN3’s College MatchDay coverage Sunday, the Blue Devils dominated Florida State, taking the first set in all six singles matches en route to a 6-0 romp at Sheffield Tennis Center.
“We played well, and we got off to really good starts,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “I think we were up 1-0 on every court, and that’s always good to see. We talked about running through every game and just being persistent all the way until the end of the match, and I think we were able to do that.”
Duke (15-1, 6-1 in the ACC) may have expected a slower start, as the team hadn’t played since March 12 against Old Dominion. Conversely, the Seminoles (9-7, 4-4) played Saturday afternoon in Raleigh against N.C. State.
If there was any rust for the Blue Devils, though, it certainly didn’t show.
“We took a couple days off [recently], and I thought we needed to do that,” Ashworth said. “We’re trying to get people healthy for this last push toward the ACC tournament and to put ourselves in a good position for that tournament. But the last couple days… we’ve just been trying to get our match mindset back in practice, and I think we did a good job of that today.”
Senior Marianne Jodoin got the party started for Duke at sixth singles with a double-bagel victory against Majlena Pederson. The 6-0, 6-0 win was Jodoin’s third shutout of the match-play season.
Junior Ester Goldfeld, ranked 24th nationally, continued her steady play at second singles for the Blue Devils, knocking off Kerrie Cartwright in a methodical 6-3, 6-4 win. Minutes later, senior Rachel Kahan sealed the third point for Duke with her 6-3, 6-2 win against Daniela Schippers at the fifth singles spot.
Senior Hanna Mar—who had an even longer layoff than her teammates, having last played March 9—converted her fifth match point to clinch the win for Duke, with a 6-3, 6-2 victory against Mia Vriens. The win by No. 31 Mar continued her undefeated run at third singles this year, where she is 7-0.
Although the scorelines appeared dominant, the wins weren’t necessarily straightforward. Ashworth credited the Seminoles’ fighting spirit for making his players work for their victories.
“Florida State has always given us a lot of trouble—historically, it’s a team that competes really well,” Ashworth said. “They play a lot better than their ranking. There was no way we were looking past this match at all, but we just had to be prepared for them to fight.”
With sixth-ranked Beatrice Capra in control at first singles Sunday, rolling 6-2, 6-2 against Daneika Borthwick, the only question was whether Duke would manage a 6-0 sweep. That task ultimately came down to freshman Alyssa Smith, who was pitted against the Seminoles’ Kristina Schleich. Although Schleich roared back in the second set 6-1 to even the match at a set apiece, 94th-ranked Smith regained her groove in the third and didn’t drop a game for the 7-5, 1-6, 6-0 win.
“[I was] focusing on each point individually,” Smith said. “I think I kind of got out of that in the second, and I think she played very well [then] and took control.”
The second-set changeover provided a good opportunity for Smith to calm herself down. And although it wasn’t complicated, she figured out what she needed to do to win.
“[Coach] just told me to get back to basics and focus on my key triggers that we work on in practice,” Smith said. “Using my legs, making sure I’m hitting around the ball. Very basic things, but if you’re not doing [them], it can be bad.”
As the match Sunday was televised, coverage began with the more intriguing singles matches. Since Duke clinched the team victory during singles, the doubles matches were superfluous and were ultimately scrapped.
After dropping its first conference match, the Blue Devils have rattled off seven straight wins, including six against ACC competition. Now midway through the 14-match gauntlet of conference play, Duke is an impressive 6-1, perched in a three-way tie for third place. The Blue Devils will next take on a nonconference opponent Wednesday in Northwestern.
“Hopefully today builds a little toward that match Wednesday, because that’s going to be a tough match for us,” Ashworth said.