For the second day in a row, the Blue Devils played aggressive tennis on their home court and dominated an early-round opponent in the NCAA Team Championship.
Fourth-seeded Duke trounced South Carolina 4-0 Saturday at Ambler Tennis Stadium to advance to the Round of 16. After the Blue Devils’ second-best doubles team of Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith fell 8-1, Duke’s other two doubles teams cruised through their respective matches to secure the doubles point and catapult the Blue Devils to victory.
Redshirt junior Rachel Kahan, senior Hanna Mar and Goldfeld all dominated in their respective singles matches, losing only seven games combined to secure the win. Not even a brief lightning delay could slow down Duke Saturday.
“It feels great to make it to the next round because there’s nothing for certain,” Mar said. “You always lay everything on the line and give everything you have, because you can’t play another match if you don’t win. Today we came out with a good amount of energy and focus. This is the type of team that’s going to fight and never give up.”
The Blue Devils' third-best doubles team of junior Annie Mulholland and freshman Chalena Scholl turned the tide of the entire match with their 8-3 win against the Gamecocks' duo of Caroline Dailey and Ximena Siles Luna. After the teams split the first six games, Mulholland and Scholl found their rhythm and won the next five games to clinch the first point of the match for Duke (26-4).
The Blue Devils' top doubles team of sophomore Beatrice Capra and Mar easily dispatched Elixane Lechemia and Dominika Kanakova 8-2 to secure the doubles point and keep South Carolina (17-11) from getting off to a good start on the road.
“We played really well, especially at three,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “They played with a lot of energy. That’s probably one of the best doubles matches that [Mulholland] ever played. She really took control of the match at the net early on and they were able to run through that after 3-2. When [Mar] is playing aggressive and [Capra] is hitting her serve, they’re a tough team to beat.”
With the doubles point clinched, Duke’s individuals continued playing with a sense of urgency in singles to prevent any sort of comeback. Kahan was first off the court with a 6-1, 6-0 win against Dailey. The Unionville, Conn., native did not lose a game in her first-round match Friday, and has thrived so far under the pressure of postseason play.
“[Rachel]'s been playing well,” Ashworth said. “The break has been good for her. She steps up in these situations really well. When she’s playing with a lot of emotion, and pumping her fist and playing loud, she plays well and people feed off of her.”
Mar was almost as dominant as Kahan, using the same tactics that made her victorious in doubles to defeat Brigit Folland in singles 6-0, 6-2.
“[Hanna] came out ultra-aggressive today,” Ashworth said. “That’s how she has to play. When she plays with energy and moves forward, it’s going to take a good effort to beat her.”
Goldfeld bounced back from her doubles loss by beating Katerina Popova 6-2, 6-2 to end the match. Capra and Scholl had both won the first set of their respective matches when the contest was decided, and Mulholland was up a break in the second set of her match after dropping the first.
The Blue Devils will look to continue their strong play when they take on 13th-seeded Clemson in Athens, Ga. Thursday at 7 p.m. Duke dominated the Tigers 4-0 in the quarterfinals of the ACC Championship April 25, but had fallen at Clemson 4-3 just eight days prior.
“It should be a fun atmosphere,” Ashworth said. “It’s a night match. It’s definitely something the team should be proud of and certainly not something that’s taken for granted.”