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Sweep gives Blue Devils fifth victory in a row

Mary Clayton won her fifth straight match Thursday with a straight-set win over Nancy Joyce, 6-0, 6-0.
Mary Clayton won her fifth straight match Thursday with a straight-set win over Nancy Joyce, 6-0, 6-0.

It’s that time of year again: flowers are blooming­—and Duke is winning.

The Blue Devils are certainly benefiting from the favorable climate, winning their first five outdoor meetings including Thursday’s sweep of No. 17 Notre Dame, 7-0.

“I was happy with the way we competed today against a very scrappy Notre Dame team,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “We’ve had three tough matches in a row and it’s great to come out victorious in all three.”

Duke played its last home meet Mar. 2 against Wake Forest and defeated N.C. State, Arizona State and No. 7 California on the road before taking on the Fighting Irish (8-7). After this victory over Notre Dame, the No. 4 Blue Devils (13-2) will not face another non-conference opponent for the remainder of the regular season.

“We talked about being at our best mentally, physically, emotionally,” Ashworth said. “We’ve played a lot in a short period and we’ve learned that we need to be resilient and take advantage of opportunities.”

Part of Duke’s success is due to its consistency in winning the doubles point, a huge advantage going into singles play. Thursday’s victory was made even sweeter when the team won its fifth consecutive doubles point.

Mary Clayton and Monica Gorny downed Notre Dame’s Nancy Joyce and JoHanna Manningham 8-2, while Ellah Nze and Rachel Kahan defeated Chrissie McGaffigan and Kristen Rafael 8-1 from the No. 1 spot to clinch the point.

Securing the early lead, the Blue Devils allowed no chance for the Fighting Irish to rally back. The team swept all six singles matches for the first time since Feb. 4 against Indiana.

“You look at where we are now from a month ago, we’re competing better, taking care of what we need to, and that’s allowing us to win,” Ashworth said.

Sophomore Mary Clayton was first off the court in singles play with a straight set victory over Joyce, 6-0, 6-0. It was a big day for Clayton—her doubles win with Monica Gorny was also their fifth straight win.

“We’ve been struggling high in our lineups for singles,” Ashworth said. “It was great that our one and two won. But the bottom of our lineup has been unbelievably solid all year. It’s tough to win matches against us because of that.”

The team has a week-long break before diving into ACC play Mar. 25 against Boston College followed by Maryland Mar. 27. The Duke squad will make it back to Ambler Stadium April 2 after a month on the road to take on Virginia Tech.

Ashworth thinks the Blue Devils can maintain their consistency winning the doubles point and continue to succeed throughout the lineup in singles competition.

“Our conference is the toughest in the country and every match we play is going to be a battle,” Ashworth said. “But Duke traditionally is good in conference matches. We have to honor that tradition by competing hard and doing what makes our program what it is.”

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