Today the Blue Devils will host a Tobacco Road matchup with more than just a rivalry at stake.
Both No. 3 Duke (19-2, 8-0 in the ACC) and No. 5 North Carolina (18-4, 8-0) are the only two undefeated teams left in the conference, and they will meet at Ambler Tennis Stadium at 3 p.m.
“They are a very good team,” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “It is going to be a close match and they have the belief that they can win close matches. It should be a good match either way.”
With just three games left on the ACC schedule for both teams, the winner of today’s match will likely secure the top seed in the conference tournament in addition to winning the regular season ACC championship.
“I think everyone knows that it is a big match,” Ashworth said. “It is not something that we harp on. We will be prepared and we will fight and do everything that we can to win the match. We feel that we are the better team.”
The Tar Heels, though, have yet to lose a doubles point in conference play, led by the No. 4 pair in the nation, Shinann Featherston and Lauren McHale.
The Blue Devils lost the doubles point in their most recent match against Florida State, and Ashworth has stressed the need to work on the team’s mindset.
“We have done a great job coming out with a high amount of energy in singles,” Ashworth said. “We have to do the same in doubles.”
Duke has the edge in singles play, carrying a .909 winning percentage in ACC play compared to the Tar Heels’ .744.
In the No. 1 matchup, Duke’s Beatrice Capra—ranked second in the nation—will likely take on McHale. Capra’s consistency has been key for Duke, as the freshman now holds a nine-match win streak. McHale, on the other hand, has lost two of her last five matches.
This past weekend, both teams defeated Miami—the previous ACC frontrunner—with Duke winning 4-0, and the Tar Heels defeating the Hurricanes, 4-3.
“They have been in some really close situations and have had really good results coming out of those,” Ashworth said. “I am sure that they have a lot of confidence.”
The Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels in their last meeting, a 4-3 win April 6, 2011, but North Carolina won all three of the teams’ matchups in the previous two years.
“It is going to be a match more of executing and controlling emotions,” Ashworth said. “We need to be the better team physically, emotionally and mentally.”
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