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Nze Lifts Duke Into NCAA Championship Match

It was a race to the finish--for sophomores Ellah Nze and Reka Zsilinszka, that is.

The only Blue Devils still playing with Duke leading 3-2, Nze and Zsilinszka lined up with simultaneous match points to win their respective matches against their Georgia opponents.

Nze gets the bragging rights for this one, extracting a roar from the Blue Devil crowd at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center with her final point, moments before Zsilinszka completed her match on Court 3. But the real victor was Duke, who advanced to the championship match with a resounding win over No. 2 Georgia (27-3).

The Blue Devils will meet No. 8 California for the title Tuesday at 7 p.m. (ET). ESPNU will broadcast the match from College Station, Texas.

Duke captured its 17th win in a row with the victory. The Blue Devils have not lost since falling March 22 to Miami, an opponent they steamrolled en route to the national semifinals.

Nze and Zsilinszka not only closed the day but helped No. 3 Duke (28-3) begin the evening on a positive note. The pair started off hot against the Bulldogs' third-flight duo and cruised to an 8-3 win.

The Blue Devils' tandem of Mallory Cecil and Jessi Robinson contributed the second doubles win to put Duke up 1-0. Cecil and Robinson fell behind early but were able to rally over Monika Dancevic and Yvette Hyndman 8-5.

However, Georgia quickly evened the score at one apiece, notching a point at sixth singles when Cameron Ellis defeated Robinson.

Junior Amanda Granson regained the lead for the Blue Devils, carrying over her momentum from Sunday's quarterfinal battle, in which she defeated Miami's Michaela Kissell in three-setter. Granson had not beaten Kissell in two tries, but head coach Jamie Ashworth said that at least half of the Blue Devils were feeding off of her Sunday.

On Monday, Granson continued her stellar play and booked the win far more easily. She left the court after prevailing 6-3, 6-2 over Dancevic, and the rest of the dual match then unfolded quickly.

Only minutes later, senior Melissa Mang put the finishing touches on her own triumph and was off to join Granson. Mang took down Naoko Ueshima 6-2, 6-2 to push her own singles win streak to a team-best 16. Closing out a tremendous senior season as a co-captain for the Duke, Mang carries a 26-2 dual match record into the championship meeting Tuesday.

The Bulldogs pulled back to within one after No. 9 Chelsey Gullickson overcame No. 6 Cecil at the first spot in a battle of super freshmen. However, Mang's contribution had given the Blue Devils their third point and set up the race to the finish between two Duke sophomores.

Nze took her contest 6-4, 6-3 over Yvette Hyndman, and Zsilinszka finished her match point as well to best Nadja Gilchrist 6-4, 6-2. The two results gave the Blue Devils the final 5-2 line.

In Tuesday's meeting with California, the Blue Devils will be seeking revenge for last year's Round of 16 meeting in which the Bears narrowly edged them to move on. Duke will play in the NCAA Championship match for only the second time in school history.


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