No. 5 Duke had no trouble advancing to the second round of the NCAA Team Championship, cruising past East Tennessee State 4-0 Friday afternoon at Ambler Tennis Stadium. The Blue Devils will meet South Carolina in the second round Saturday at 3 p.m. The Gamecocks defeated Ohio State 4-1 Friday morning.
Playing for the first time in two weeks, it took some time for the Blue Devils (25-4) to get in sync on the doubles court, but they ultimately proved too much for the Buccaneers to handle. The duos of Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar and Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith dispatched their East Tennessee State counterparts by identical 8-4 scores to give Duke the doubles point and the early 1-0 advantage.
The doubles victories were convincing, but didn't always adhere to the scouting report.
“The biggest thing [Friday] was not having played in two weeks,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “You could definitely tell. We went out and just played. We didn’t play to targets we had been working on or any kind of strategy we had been working on. We’re lucky that we have some depth on doubles, but we have to be better with little things we’ve done well with all year. We got off to a decent start in doubles, with two breaks in each match and let it roll from there. I do think we competed well, and that carries us sometimes.”
With doubles behind them, the Blue Devils appeared much more focused during singles play, which turned out to be a more lopsided affair. Redshirt junior Rachel Kahan got Duke started by blanking Sofia Espana 6-0, 6-0 on court four. Goldfeld followed with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against East Tennessee State's Lyn Yee Choo, and junior Annie Mulholland put the finishing touches on the match, defeating Salma Dahbi 6-1, 6-1.
“[We were] a little bit more disciplined [in singles] than the doubles,” Ashworth said. “We played more toward targets. Our first serve percentage was pretty good. We capitalized on leads that we had, which was good. I think that’s something we have to do tomorrow when we have opportunities to end points or end sets, to take advantage of them."
The other positive to come out of Duke's first-round victory against the Buccaneers (14-9) was a short match time. The Blue Devils got off the courts in two hours and 20 minutes, allowing them to rest up for a quick turnaround against South Carolina.
“I hope [the short match time] helps, especially because two weeks ago we had to play four matches in four days,” Ashworth said. “Our goal was to get off the court quick. We talked about not just coming out in swinging and I think they did a good job of that in singles.”