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Doubles point propels Duke to victory in conference opener

Freshman Rachel Kahan extended her singles winning streak to 11 games.
Freshman Rachel Kahan extended her singles winning streak to 11 games.

After a dry spell in doubles play, the No. 3 Blue Devils found their stride Wednesday against Wake Forest.

Quick wins across the board helped Duke (9-2, 1-0 in the ACC) top the Demon Deacons 6-1 in Ambler Stadium.

In their first ACC match of the season, the Blue Devils set out to prove they were worthy of their new No. 3 ranking. Wake Forest (2-5, 0-2) never got the chance to rally back after the No. 50 doubles team of Monica Gorny and Mary Clayton defeated Brigita Bercyte and Martina Pavelec 8-2. The new team of Ellah Nze and Rachel Kahan then knocked off Ryann Cutillo and Emilee Malvehy 8-5 to take the doubles point.

Duke hadn’t won the doubles point since Feb. 4 against Indiana. Head coach Jamie Ashworth seems to have temporarily found the right pairings to bring the necessary chemistry to the court.

“I couldn’t even tell you how many different combinations we’ve already had this semester,” Ashworth said. “We’re just trying to find a lot of energy with our doubles.”

This energy fueled Clayton to win her singles match against Anna Mydlowska in just 58 minutes, 6-1, 6-1. Not long after, Kahan bested Cutillo 7-5, 6-0 and Zsilinszka overcame Kayla Duncan 6-1, 6-0 from the No. 3 spot to clinch the team’s first ACC win.

Kahan extended her winning streak to 11 matches, dating back to the fall season. Her efforts from the No. 5 spot, as well as Clayton’s from No. 6, have been essential to many of Duke’s victories.

“If any of our top three can get a win, it’s the best feeling to know that we have two amazingly dominant players [in the bottom of our lineup],” Zsilinszka said. “They’ve been great.”

Not only did this game mark the team’s first conference victory, but it also signaled the season’s transition from the Sheffield Indoor Center to the outdoor Ambler Stadium.

“It’s a different game because inside the points are faster,” Ashworth said. “Outside it’s much more of a conditioning kind of game. When you walk on the court you know you’ll have to work just a little bit more because of the speed and the elements.”

The Blue Devils were nearly perfect in singles competition, with only Nadine Fahoum falling to her opponent 3-6, 6-2, 3-6 after losing the first set. Even with the success of the rest of the team, Ashworth sees room to improve.

“I didn’t want them to relax because we won the doubles point,” the coach said. “You still have to give everything to win six singles matches.”

Duke will get another chance to adjust to outdoor play Friday against N.C. State. This in-state rivalry match marks the beginning of a six-game road trip for the Blue Devils.

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