Delayed start? Bitter rivalry?
It seemed as if nothing could stop No. 3 Duke (27-3) from securing the 4-1 win Sunday afternoon at George P. Mitchell Tennis Stadium. The Blue Devils leaped past ACC rival and No. 6 Miami (26-5) into the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, dropping only one point along the way.
In the teams' third meeting of the season–and first since Duke beat Miami for the ACC tournament crown April 19–the Blue Devils knew the Hurricanes would be seeking revenge. That meeting a month ago came down to one final singles duel between sophomore Reka Zsilinszka and Bianca Eichkorn at No. 3, in which Zsilinszka was down five match points and still outlasted Eichkorn for the win.
Sunday, Zsilinszka provided Duke with the clinching point once again. This time, Zsilinszka–and Duke–seemed determined to end things before the match came down to the final singles point.
During the first set, Zsilinszka seemed to be headed toward another long battle. But after a long deuce game to close the first frame, the sophomore quickly gained all the momentum and didn't ease up until she claimed the final point for a score of 6-4, 6-2.
In one of its few setbacks, Duke gave up the first match of the afternoon at No. 2 doubles. The Hurricanes' Julia Cohen and Eichkorn came out firing against Mallory Cecil and Jessi Robinson, defeating them 8-1.
Duke rebounded to claim the doubles point behind wins from its No. 1 and No. 3 pairs. The combo of Melissa Mang and Amanda Granson came through 8-4 at the first slot, while Zsilinszka and Ellah Nze finally ousted Gabriela Mejia and Claudia Wasilewski 8-6.
The Blue Devils carried that momentum into singles, where No. 6 Cecil was first off the court. Two days after upsetting the 2nd-ranked player in the country, Cecil wasted no time demolishing No. 3 Cohen 6-2, 6-1. Laura Vallverdu then gave the Hurricanes their only point of the day by defeating Nze.
At No. 4, Granson relinquished the first set to Michaela Kissell but reversed her fortune for the remainder of the match. The junior finished 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, leaving Duke only one point shy of the final four.
Moments later, Zsilinszka downed Eichkorn to put the Blue Devils through.
It was a far cry from the rivals' first contest of the season March 22 when Duke traveled to Miami and came away with a 2-5 loss. The Blue Devils have continued to improve since then, and, counting Sunday's win, are riding a 16-match winning streak dating from that loss.
Duke advances to the final four, where it will face No. 2 Georgia Monday at 5 p.m. (ET) in College Station, Texas. The Bulldogs outlasted unseeded South Carolina 4-3 Sunday evening to move on.
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