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Blue Devils bested yet again by Florida

Elizabeth Plotkin was the lone Blue Devil to top her Gator opponent on Sunday. Duke lost 4-1.
Elizabeth Plotkin was the lone Blue Devil to top her Gator opponent on Sunday. Duke lost 4-1.

Despite defeating Virginia and Tennessee in the opening rounds of the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, No. 6 Duke ultimately fell short for the second time in two weeks to No. 2 Florida.

The Blue Devils faced the Gators Sunday in the semifinal round in Charlottesville, Va. The only top 10 team that Duke has faced this season, Florida again bested the Blue Devils in doubles to snatch an early lead. Duke has not won a doubles point since defeating Indiana on Feb. 4, conceding five straight doubles points in every subsequent match.

“We have to work on doubles,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “We can’t come in already down 1-0. Although it’s only one point, it will catch up to you, especially against teams like Florida. It puts on the pressure—you have to find a way to compete better once you’re down like that.”

The Blue Devils did see some high points in their weekend of play, however. Even without the early doubles point, Duke was able to overcome Tennessee by a margin of 4-1 and Virginia 4-2 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

In those two matches, freshman Rachel Kahan maintained her perfect 8-0 singles record and senior Elizabeth Plotkin provided clutch victories in her matches. Plotkin was also the only Blue Devil to overcome her Gator opponent on Sunday.

“I lost to [Sofie Oyen] the last time we played,” Plotkin said. “I used that loss to know how she played. It was something to learn from to do better today. I didn’t play my best, but I knew how to overcome it.”

Despite these improvements, Florida’s players proved too much for the Duke squad. Nadine Fahoum and Ellah Nze both lost in straight sets to make the score 3-1 in favor of the Gators before Alex Cercone defeated Mary Clayton to close the match. With the victory in hand, Kahan and senior Reka Zsilinska had to abandon their matches.

“We know we can win four singles matches, but it puts the pressure on to lose the doubles point,” Ashworth said. “When your opponent is hot, or your player is off just a little bit, it doesn’t leave much room for error. Every match out there was close, and winning the doubles point gave Florida the mental boost they needed to finish the point.”

Although the Gators emerged with the 4-1 win, the Blue Devils will use the experience to come out stronger for the rest of the season.

“Tournaments like these give us a good feel for where you stand,” Ashworth said. “Our singles [lineup] is as good as anyone in the country, and the Florida coaches said so after the matches.”

Duke now has a break until March 2, when it will take on Wake Forest at Sheffield Indoor Stadium.


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