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Blue Devil women's tennis drops fourth and fifth straight on the road against Florida, Stanford

Senior Annie Mulholland and the Blue Devils dropped their fourth and fifth straight match on the road this weekend.
Senior Annie Mulholland and the Blue Devils dropped their fourth and fifth straight match on the road this weekend.

The road has been tough for the Blue Devils.

This weekend's doubleheader against No. 2 Florida Friday and No. 10 Stanford Saturday was no different as it marked the fourth and fifth straight road losses for No. 16 Duke this season.

“We had some little goals that we needed to do in that match and we weren’t able to do it but we definitely competed well,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “When we had our opportunities we couldn’t really execute which was frustrating.”

The Blue Devils entered singles competition against the Gators down 1-0 after yielding the doubles point. The Duke duo of senior Annie Mulholland and freshman Samantha Harris raced off to a 2-0 lead against Florida pair Spencer Liang and Belinda Woolcock, but ended up dropping the match 8-3, marking their first dropped doubles set of the season.

In a separate doubles matchup, the Gators also prevailed against a top Duke pairing. Initially tied at 3-3, Blue Devils Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith lost five of the next six games, giving Florida's Brooke Austin and Courtney Keegan—ranked fourth in the nation—an 8-4 victory and the Gators a one point advantage heading into singles play.

“We have to be able to play longer points and kind of grind a little bit more I thought in doubles and we didn’t really do that,” Ashworth said. “We were trying to play too quick and too fast and make the plays too short.”

As the match headed to singles, the Gators increased their lead to 2-0, with 44th ranked Keegan conquering Duke’s Smith 6-0, 6-2.

Junior Beatrice Capra sparked some momentum for the Blue Devils with a close first set, but ultimately Florida’s sixth-ranked Austin was able to come out on top 7-6, 6-2.

Although the Blue Devils demonstrated a solid effort across the board, the Gators could not be stopped and snagged a 4-0 victory.

For the Gators, this triumph extended their home winning streak to 137 straight matches to garner them the longest active win streak of any NCAA women’s Division I sport.

With little time to rest, Duke faced off against No. 10 Stanford the following day.

On court one Goldfeld and Smith came out strong and gained a 6-5 advantage over Stanford’s fifth ranked duo of Taylor Davidson and Carol Zhao, but were unable to clinch the win as the Cardinals rallied hard to secure three straight games and the win.

In singles competition, Stanford came out hot claiming a 4-0 victory, leaving three matches unfinished including a potential Blue Devil win. Samantha Harris led 14th ranked Davidson 7-6, 3-0 when play was suspended.

“We’ve faced some really good competition,” Ashworth said. “All teams are top 20 in the country so we just have to learn from the experience and grow from the opportunities we had even though we haven’t gotten the results we wanted we have to be able to learn from those results.”

This weekend’s setbacks will provide the Blue Devils a chance to hone in on the basics including consistency and point play as they head home for two ACC contests.

Replicating match-like conditions in practice in order to better ready themselves for real competition is something that the Blue Devils will work on this week, Ashworth said.

This week’s five day break will be important for Duke to rejuvenate and focus on maintaining their health.

“We know that we can be one of the best teams in the country. Our number one goal right now is to get healthy,” Ashworth said. “When we’re healthy, we can be as good as anyone in the country. When we’re hurt, it puts a lot of pressure on everybody.”

This spring, one third of the Blue Devil squad has suffered injuries, rendering them unable to compete in a handful of matches. In the contest against Stanford, Duke missed three key players including sophomore Chalena Scholl and Christina Makarova.

Nearly halfway through the season, the Blue Devils head into a week of ACC contests looking for a fresh start, facing Virginia Tech on Friday and Louisville on Sunday.

“We’re lucky that conference season starts this week and everyone is 0-0 in the conference so we kind of have a clean slate to work with,” Ashworth said. “We need to take advantage of that. We’ve definitely had some adversity in the last three weeks so hopefully everyone as a team will step up and show what kind of leaders and what kind of players we can be.”

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