Despite the absence of senior leader Beatrice Capra for the third straight match, the Blue Devils closed out the regular season on a high note and earned a much-needed two-day bye in the ACC tournament.
Stepping up to fill Capra’s shoes, junior Chalena Scholl clinched No. 8 Duke’s 5-2 victory against Clemson Sunday at the Hoke Sloan Tennis Center in Clemson, S.C., with her second straight upset win on the top singles court, defeating No. 40 Ayan Broomfield 6-3, 6-3.
The Pompano Beach, Fla., native had momentarily staved off Georgia Tech’s win Friday by outlasting No. 34 Johnnise Renaud 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, but her victory was not enough as the Blue Devils left Atlanta with their third conference loss. But this time, Scholl’s win secured the rebound victory for the short-handed squad in need of good news heading into the postseason.
“We needed to have a confidence-boosting win and to know we can beat good teams, especially on the road in Clemson, a place in the past where we have really struggled,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke.com. “We’ll take that and keep working on the things we did well today.”
Ashworth wanted his squad to get off to a strong start to prevent the Tigers (10-9, 8-6 in the ACC) from gaining momentum on Senior Day, and Kaitlyn McCarthy and Samantha Harris went out and executed that game plan. The pair blanked senior Joana Eidukonyte and her freshman partner Fernanda Navarro 6-0 in No. 1 doubles. The rout was the spark the Blue Devils (18-5, 11-3) needed as Scholl and Alyssa Smith came storming back from a 2-4 deficit on court two to tie the match against Tristen Dewar and Ally Miller-Krasilnikov 5-5. But Scholl and Smith did not have time to complete a comeback win before the freshman duo of Ellyse Hamlin and Jessica Ho clinched the doubles point with their 6-4 defeat of Broomfield and Daniela Ruiz on court three.
From there, Duke jumped out to early leads on four singles courts with No. 97 Scholl, Harris, Hamlin and Ho easily claiming their first sets, and the freshmen quickly made the team score 3-0. Hamlin cruised past Miller-Krasilnikov 6-3, 6-2 and Ho dispatched Dewar in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.
“Chalena and Sam did a really good job getting first sets,” Ashworth said. “It’s the first time in a while Ellyse was the first one done. She played a really smart match. It was definitely good to see all of that heading into the ACC tournament next week.”
Harris—usually the Blue Devils’ first singles player off the court—was stalled by Navarro in the second set. The Melbourne, Australia, native entered the day undefeated in three-frame contests so far this season, but warded off a deciding set with a 7-3 tiebreak win in the second stanza to claim the match 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
Clemson picked up its two points with wins on courts two and six. No. 41 McCarthy could not contain No. 23 Eidukonyte, falling 3-6, 1-6 and redshirt freshman Christina Makarova dropped the third-set tiebreaker 10-4 after splitting the previous frames with Ruiz 2-6, 7-5.
With the win, the Blue Devils ensured themselves two extra days of rest before they enter the ACC tournament in Cary, N.C., as the No. 4 seed Friday at 1 p.m. Duke will play the winner of Thursday’s match between fifth-seeded Virginia and either Boston College or Florida State. The Eagles and Seminoles will play Wednesday to open the tournament. It is uncertain whether the two-day bye will provide enough time for Capra to return to the lineup.
“I’ll take my chances against anybody with this team that we have,” Ashworth said. “We just need to eliminate errors early in the points. I thought, as a whole, we were really good with that today.”