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Duke ousted by eventual champs in quarterfinals

The Blue Devils women's tennis team went down to Georgia last Thursday, looking for a national championship.


    Duke (22-5), however, lost to eventual national champions Stanford in the NCAA quarterfinals Friday to bring the the Blue Devils' season to an end.


    Duke's run began auspiciously enough Thursday. The Blue Devils duplicated one of their earlier successes this season, knocking off Northwestern 4-1 in the round of 16. Duke also defeated the Wildcats 5-2 in February.


    "I feel like everybody played really well," senior Amanda Johnson said. "We lost the doubles point against Northwestern, which I think we did the time before when we played them, but everyone played very well in singles."


    The Blue Devils were again galvanized after losing the doubles point against the Wildcats. Duke took five of the first six sets in the singles matches, highlighted by eighth-ranked Johnson's 6-2 first-set victory against third-ranked Wildcat Cristelle Grier. The Bettendorf, Ia., native went on to win the match 6-2, 6-3, handing Grier her second career dual match loss. Both of Grier's losses have come to Johnson.


    "I think... Amanda playing Grier and winning the first set was a big momentum-builder for us," head coach Jamie Ashworth said. "We didn't give them any momentum to build on after the doubles."


    The Blue Devils' success, however, would not carry on to their Friday match against Stanford, when the undefeated Cardinal shredded the Blue Devils' doubles teams.


    "We just came out really flat in the doubles," Ashworth said. "At one point we were down 6-0, 6-0 and 5-1 [on the three courts]. We just started in a big hole in the doubles and couldn't recover."


    As was the case against Northwestern, Duke attempted a singles rally, winning three of the six first sets. Unlike Thursday, however, the Blue Devils could not complete the comeback quickly enough. Johnson was the first to lose, 6-3, 6-1 to seventh-ranked Amber Liu. Shortly thereafter, 112th-ranked Blue Devil Jennifer Zika and Saras Arasu both lost in straight sets to seal the win for Stanford.


    "They just took it to us in singles," Johnson said. "There were some good matches, but nobody could really catch their breath to have a comeback in that match."


    Johnson, the lone senior on the team, is the only Duke player not returning for the 2004-2005 season. She remained in Athens after the team loss to participate in the singles championships and teamed with freshman Tory Zawacki to participate in the doubles championships.


    The third-seeded duo of Zawacki and Johnson, however, bowed out in the round of 32 after being upset by Indiana's Linda Tran and Sarah Batty in three sets Tuesday.


    "We hadn't played together in a while and it was really frustrating," Johnson said. "It took us a long time to find our groove. We had some ups, we had some downs, but we couldn't pull the match out."


    In the singles championships, Johnson, seeded seventh, lost in three sets to Aibika Kalsarieva of Kentucky Wednesday. Previously this year, Johnson defeated Kalsarieva in dual match play 6-4, 6-3 en route to a 6-1 Duke victory in Lexington January 31.


    "I'm incredibly disappointed," Johnson said. "I did not play the way today the way I felt I could play or should play.... My game just wasn't on today."


    The loss ends Johnson's college career, and she leaves Duke with an impressive 117-35 singles record. The 117 wins tie her with Karen Goldstein and Monica Mraz for seventh all-time at Duke, and her 77.0 career winning percentage is tied for fifth-best among four-year Blue Devil tennis players. Additionally, Johnson is just the second Blue Devil to be named an All-American four consecutive years.


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