The Blue Devils began their national champion defense in dominant fashion this past weekend, bouncing back from last month's disappointing early exit in the ACC Tournament.
No. 10 Duke defeated Long Island 4-0 and knocked off Virginia 4-1 in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, respectively, in Charlottesville, Va.
The Blue Devils needed to regroup after falling to Florida State in the first round of the conference tournament back on April 23. Duke had blanked the Seminoles 4-0 just one week before in the regular season but dropped four straight singles matches the second time around, losing 4-2 and failing to capture a second straight ACC championship.
A layoff of three weeks allowed the Blue Devils to put that defeat behind them and enter the NCAA tournament with a renewed focus.
“We stumbled in the first round of ACC’s and had to figure out what went wrong,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “We talked about having to be competitive against each other in practice everyday. We had to put ourselves in match situations. [The players] had to go at each other and use their teammates to get their sharpness back.”
These high-intensity practices paid off in the first round of the tournament last Friday, as Duke shut out Long Island and dropped only one game during the entire match. After the Blue Devils quickly picked up the doubles point, seniors Amanda Granson and Elizabeth Plotkin beat their opponents in unblemished straight sets at No. 4 and No. 2 singles, respectively. Sophomore Monica Gorny was next off the court, giving Duke the win by picking up a 6-0, 6-1 victory at the No. 5 singles position.
Virginia provided tougher competition for the Blue Devils Saturday, but the Cavaliers could not avenge the 5-2 loss that Duke dealt them in the regular season.
More to come later in the week, as the Blue Devils prepare to face No. 7 UCLA Thursday at noon.
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