When Karin Miller bolted to the pros, the women's tennis team needed someone to fill her shoes. Along with playing No. 1 and No. 2 singles last season, the freshman phenom teamed up with Vanessa Webb to form Duke's top doubles team, which finished the year ranked No. 14.
It seems that Webb has found her new teammate in junior transfer Karen Goldstein.
This weekend at the Rolex Indoor Championships in Dallas, Webb and Goldstein-the only two Blue Devils to qualify for this, the third Grand Slam event of the year-advanced to the doubles finals, only to lose a three-set heartbreaker to Anita Bleszynski and Julie Scott of Stanford.
The match lasted over two hours and was close throughout. Duke won the first set, 6-3, and had a chance at taking the second. The set went into a tie-breaker which the Blue Devils lost, 7-6 (6). The third set was another battle, but the Stanford duo won out, 7-5, to win the championship.
"When push came to shove, we didn't play tough enough," Webb said. "They hit the shots when they had to, and we didn't. While we're happy to get to the finals, it's also a disappointment because we came so close."
The fact that these two teams were competing in the finals certainly came as a shock to those behind the Rolex Collegiate Rankings. While Webb and Goldstein were ranked eighth, the Stanford team that won the title was only No. 7 in the nation.
With such a low ranking, Duke had to pull off a major upset in the second round when it knocked off the top-ranked team of Vanessa Castellano and Marissa Catli of Georgia. A second seed, the Georgia duo dropped the first set 4-6 only to come back and win the second, 6-2. The third set, however, would go to the Blue Devils, 6-4.
"We played surprisingly well," Webb said. "We hadn't played together much this term, but for whatever reason we got out there and just clicked. We played better as a team than they did, and that was the difference."
In the semifinals, Webb and Goldstein easily eliminated Tennessee's Margie Lepsi and Manisha Malhotra-ranked 14th in the nation-in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0. The win gave Duke its second Rolex Indoors doubles finalists in as many years. Last year it was the team of Karen O'Sullivan and Luanne Spadea that advanced to the finals.
Webb and Goldstein have had tremendous success this season when they play together. Already this year, the duo has won the William & Mary and Wake Forest invitationals. Goldstein's strong baseline play has worked nicely with Webb's strong play at the net.
"We play totally different games," Webb said. "We gel together really well.... For the first time in my two-and-a-half years at Duke I feel really comfortable with a doubles partner."
The duo did not have as much success in the singles draw. Webb, No. 9 in the country, won her first match in straight sets but was then upset by BYU's eleventh-ranked Holly Parkinson in the second round. Parkinson took the first set, 6-4, then won the second in a tie-breaker, 7-6 (4).
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"I'm not playing as well as I could be," Webb said. "She beat me from the baseline. I've been struggling with my forehand especially, and that should be a strength for me. [Parkinson] exploited that. When I play top competition, I have to hit the ball better."
Goldstein, meanwhile, lost her first-round match to eventual champion, No. 14 Scott, 6-4, 6-1. In consolation singles, Goldstein would fall again, this time at the hands of No. 20 Zsofia Csapo of Pepperdine.
Goldstein and Webb will be reunited with their Blue Devil teammates as team play commences versus Kansas Friday afternoon in Chapel Hill.