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Short-handed Duke women's tennis takes down No. 24 Syracuse

The Blue Devils played without their top two singles players Friday

<p>Playing without their top two singles players, the Blue Devils rose to the challenge to take down No. 24 Syracuse Friday afternoon.</p>

Playing without their top two singles players, the Blue Devils rose to the challenge to take down No. 24 Syracuse Friday afternoon.

The day did not start well for the Blue Devils, who learned that No. 28 Kaitlyn McCarthy would not compete in Duke’s third ACC contest due to food poisoning

Then, when head coach Jamie Ashworth decided that No. 26 Beatrice Capra could not play singles either after rolling her ankle in doubles action, the Blue Devils got really worried.

But their concerns did not last long, as junior Chalena Scholl and sophomore Samantha Harris stepped up and pulled off a pair of singles upsets against Syracuse's No. 42 Anna Shkudun and Valeria Salazar.

Propelled by Scholl’s 6-0, 6-1 win and Harris’ 6-2, 6-2 effort, No. 6 Duke beat No. 24 Syracuse 6-1 Friday afternoon at Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. The Orange took a 1-0 lead thanks to its two doubles victories, but the Blue Devils blanked Syracuse in singles action and clinched their third straight conference victory.

“[After singles], the energy was a lot higher, everyone was cheering up and yelling up there,” Harris said. “We got a few quick matches. Chalena was quick off the court, which helped us regain that momentum. And then, we got a lot of first sets, which also helped and then one by one, everyone trusted each other and we all got off the court pretty cleanly.”

Despite starting doubles action with a 6-2 win from the duo of Harris and rookie Jessica Ho—who played together for the first time this season—the Blue Devils  (10-1, 3-0 in the ACC) could not beat the Orange (8-2, 2-2) in the two other matchups. The No. 17 pairing of Capra and freshman Ellyse Hamlin fell to the Syracuse tandem of Salazar and Gabriela Knutson 7-5 and the duo of Scholl and her classmate Alyssa Smith lost against Shkudun and Dina Hegab 6-3.

“I don’t think we played with very much energy [in doubles],” Ashworth said. “We were just flat with our energy. We were really too passive and that’s not how we have been playing doubles this last month.”

Ashworth said that after the doubles point, he asked the Blue Devils to regroup and just trust both themselves and their teammates’ effort for the singles gauntlet.

His squad embraced the message quite well.

After Scholl and Harris swept their opponents to secure Duke’s first two points, Smith beat Hegab 6-2, 6-3 on court six and No. 59 Hamlin clinched the Blue Devil victory with her 7-6, 6-4 win against Knutson. Ho needed three sets to defeat Orange’s Maria Tritou and redshirt freshman Christina Makarova posted her fifth consecutive singles victory on court five.

“[The key was] energy. I’m very proud of how our team battled back and gave it all after losing doubles,” Hamlin said.

The Blue Devils will travel to Blacksburg, Va. to take on Virginia Tech Sunday at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center. Ashworth’s squad will look to make the best out of the extra day it has to rest and prepare the contest against the Hokies—who fell to Wake Forest 5-2 in Winston Salem, N.C., Saturday.

“[The Hokies] are really good at home, especially indoors, so we have to take advantage of the fact that we are not playing tomorrow,” Ashworth said. “We’ll have a good practice tomorrow afternoon and recover from today a little bit and be ready for a good match.”


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