Duke women's tennis continues grueling stretch at No. 12 Virginia

<p>Freshman Ellyse Hamlin and the Blue Devils will face their third straight top-20 opponent Friday.</p>

Freshman Ellyse Hamlin and the Blue Devils will face their third straight top-20 opponent Friday.

Right in the middle of their most arduous portion of the season, the Blue Devils will have to gear up for another grueling weekend as they play three ACC matches in six days.

No. 10 Duke hits the road Friday to take on No. 12 Virginia at the Sheridan Snyder Tennis Center in Charlottesville, Va., at 3 p.m. as the Blue Devils face off against a third straight top-20 opponent. Duke is 1-1 in the midst of its toughest stretch of the season after besting No. 19 Wake Forest but falling to No. 3 North Carolina, with the Cavaliers and No. 11 Michigan still on the horizon. After dealing with Virginia, the Blue Devils will return to Durham and welcome Notre Dame Sunday at 11 a.m. at Ambler Tennis Stadium to close out the weekend.

“Everywhere we go in the conference now, the attendance is better, every team is so good, and they’re all comfortable on their own court.” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “Virginia does a good job playing matches at home. Historically, they’ve played really well at home. Some of the best teams we’ve had, we’ve gone up to Charlottesville and had some really tough matches. We have to be prepared for the best and take the crowd out of it, which we can do by getting out to a good start in doubles.”

That quick start proved elusive for Duke Tuesday against the Tar Heels, who captured the doubles point on their way to dispatching Duke 4-1. Senior Beatrice Capra and sophomore Samantha Harris exchanged games at the beginning of the match on court one, but the Blue Devil tandem quickly fell three games behind the duo of Hayley Carter and Whitney Kay. Carter—the nation’s top ranked singles player—then took control of the match and the Tar Heels won, 6-3.

After wrapping up the doubles point, North Carolina picked up three singles matches in straight sets to quickly quiet the crowd in Durham. Harris notched the lone victory of the day for Duke (13-3, 6-2 in the ACC) on court four, but the disappointment from the Blue Devils' performance against the Tar Heels had to be curbed in a hurry with the Cavaliers looming.

“We had a good workout [Wednesday] and did some individual work [Thursday] morning.” Ashworth said. “I think and hope that [the girls] put the loss to North Carolina behind them and they’re ready to go at arguably one of the toughest places to play in the country. We’re looking forward to another opportunity against a touch team. That’s the good thing about this conference. We know we’re always going to have a touch match, and you have to be ready to go.”

The Cavaliers (11-7, 5-3 ACC) come into Friday’s match fresh off a 4-0 shutout of Florida State. The trip down to Tallahassee, Fla., was the last match of a two-week road trip for the Cavaliers, who produced wins against the Seminoles and N.C. State in between losses to Wake Forest and Miami.

Friday's match will feature action between ranked opponents on several of the courts. Virginia's No. 4 Danielle Collins and No. 16 Julia Elbaba will provide stiff tests for No. 28 Capra and No. 92 Chalena Scholl, who dropped her first match in eight tries against the Tar Heels. The Blue Devils will also enter No. 35 McCarthy and No. 78 Elyse Hamlin as the pair of freshmen make their first trip to Charlottesville.

In doubles, the 13th-ranked pair of Capra and Hamlin will likely square off against the No. 21 duo of Collins and freshman Meghan Kelly.

The Blue Devils started slow Tuesday, but will need to flip that script Friday against the Cavaliers in order to notch their first victory in Charlottesville since 2012. Eleven of Collins' 24 wins this season have come at the first position, and the senior owns a 16-4 record against nationally ranked opponents, setting up an intriguing matchup against Capra. Elbaba is the usual Viriginia competitor on court two and has compiled a 12-3 record there this season.

The Fighting Irish (9-8, 3-5) will arrive in Durham looking to rebound from losses to North Carolina and N.C. State last weekend. No. 45 Quinn Gleason leads the way for Notre Dame but is just 3-5 in ACC play, and No. 61 Monica Robinson has posted a 10-7 record on court two so far this season. Sophomore Brooke Broda—who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury—has lost just one match all season dating back to the fall and is 12-0 at fifth singles and 6-1 in ACC action.

“No matter who we play, we have to show that we are there fight and compete.” Ashworth said. “We have to worry about resting a month from now. We can’t worry about it right now. We have to work hard every day we play and be grateful for the opportunities we have to play these matches and compete against good teams every day. That’s what our conference brings. We have to rise to those levels and rise to those expectations.”


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