Coming off a big win Wednesday against No. 9 Northwestern, top-ranked Duke had to watch out for a letdown in two road matches against teams at the bottom of the ACC standings.
The top-ranked Blue Devils were more than up to the task this weekend, winning 13 of a possible 14 points and boosting their win streak to 10 matches, a streak that dates back to Feb. 23.
“We talked a lot about playing the ball and not playing the opponent,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “This was our first time playing at Pitt, and a lot of people watching who were maybe seeing us for the first time. So we put an emphasis on not just being the top-ranked tennis team but being the top-ranked team, in terms of the effort and attitude we brought to the court.”
Duke (18-1, 8-1 in the ACC) got off to a fast start at doubles Sunday, clinching wins at the first and third spots. Junior Annie Mulholland and senior Marianne Jodoin, playing third doubles, made quick work of Panthers Kimmy Borza and Amanda Wickman in a 8-1 romp, and then the sixth-ranked duo of sophomore Beatrice Capra and senior Hanna Mar notched an 8-2 win against Audrey Ann Blakely and Taylor Washington to take the doubles point.
From there, the Blue Devils cruised against Pittsburgh (4-9, 0-9). Both Mulholland and freshman Chalena Scholl took spots in the singles lineup and claimed victories for the second time this weekend.
“All year we’ve talked about how we need to have eight players contributing,” Ashworth said. “We’ve rested Chalena as long as we can to try to get her healthy and keep her fresh for this ACC stretch run… and Annie’s always been able to provide some good depth for us.”
Mulholland was the first singles victor for Duke, leading 6-1, 3-0 when opponent Amanda Wickman retired at fifth singles. Then Jodoin continued her pattern of pasting all comers at the sixth spot, notching a 6-0, 6-0 win against Jocelyn Lu. The match was clinched when freshman Alyssa Smith, ranked 89th nationally, defeated Borza 6-3, 6-2 at fourth singles.
Scholl notched a win at second singles despite dropping the opening set to Taylor Washington. She regained her composure, roaring back to claim the final two sets for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory.
"She did a good job of not getting frustrated after the first set, and was able to do what she wanted to in the second and third sets," Ashworth said. "She kept her composure. She lost her serve just one time in the first set, but that didn't really affect her moving forward."
Duke was even able to give fifth-ranked Capra a break at the first singles spot. Junior Ester Goldfeld, ranked 24th in the nation, filled Capra’s shoes capably there, beating No. 114 Blakely 7-6 (7-4), 6-1. In the last match of the day, No. 31 Mar was unable to complete the sweep, as Lolade Ogungbesan battled back to claim a three-set victory, 1-6, 6-4, 10-7.
The Blue Devils opened the weekend with another dominant performance against Maryland. Playing in College Park, Md., the Blue Devils swept the Terrapins (5-9, 1-7) without dropping a single set to both avenge last season’s defeat to Maryland and give Ashworth his 400th career win. The victory was extra special for Ashworth as he completed this feat in College Park, where he was a four-year letterwinner for the Terrapins.
Was he able to celebrate the milestone at some of his old College Park stomping grounds?
“None of those places are around anymore,” Ashworth said, laughing. “So, no, not really.”
After securing the doubles point with identical 8-2 wins, Scholl spotted Duke a 2-0 advantage with a win at third singles, knocking off Kristina Hovsepyan 6-2, 6-1. Mulholland dropped just one game in the sixth spot to top Olga Gaistruk 6-1, 6-0, and finally Capra gave the Blue Devils the overall win with a 6-0, 6-2 at first singles, defeating Alexandra Stanova.
In the other matches, Mar won 6-3, 6-4 against Welma Luus at fourth singles, Goldfeld won 6-3, 6-1 at second singles, knocking off Nataliya Bredikhina, and Rachel Kahan cleaned up in the fifth slot with a 6-3, 6-3 victory against Olga Bredikhina.
The Blue Devils face off against N.C. State Friday before moving onto a highly-anticipated match Sunday against ACC leader Miami, a team that’s currently undefeated in league play.
“The big thing for us will be the weather and getting outside. It’s supposed to get up to 80 [degrees] this week instead of 50, and a team like Miami is used to that,” Ashworth said. “We have to work on our conditioning and be prepared so this doesn’t feel like a home match for them.”