After winning eight of their first 10 matches in ACC play, the Blue Devils have climbed into the top 10 of this week’s ITA rankings.
Now Duke will try and see if it can stay hot against a stout nonconference opponent.
After picking up a pair of weekend victories against Virginia and Notre Dame, the No. 8 Blue Devils will host No. 11 Michigan Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Ambler Tennis Stadium. Duke swept then-No. 12 Virginia 4-0 on the road Friday, before defeating Notre Dame 4-1 at home Sunday afternoon.
“Our in-match energy level was a little bit better, especially against Notre Dame,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “Coming off a stretch where we were away on a Friday and home on a Sunday, it’s really easy to have a fatigue factor set in. I was really happy with our in-match energy and how they kind of supported each other on the courts and let that momentum carry from one court to the other when we got down a bit.”
The Blue Devils’ meeting with the Wolverines (12-4) will likely feature numerous matchups between ranked opponents in singles action. Senior Beatrice Capra will face a stiff test when she battles No. 16 Ronit Yurovsky on court one. Ranked No. 25 heading into the match, Capra will look to get a big win to catapult up the rankings and move above .500 against ranked opponents this season.
Duke (15-3) will turn to No. 67 Chalena Scholl and No. 43 Kaitlin McCarthy in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively, with both looking to win their second consecutive matches. Michigan will counter with a pair of talented freshmen with Brienne Minor playing on court two and Kate Fahey competing in the No. 3 spot. Minor owns a team-best 25-7 mark this season, and Fahey heads to Durham with a nine-match win streak in tow.
The Wolverines enter Wednesday’s match on a streak of their own as the team has reeled off five straight victories and remain unbeaten in conference play. When Michigan has faced off against ACC opponents, the Wolverines have been up for the challenge with convincing victories against Miami and North Carolina—both ranked in the top 10—this season
“We have to treat it as any other match,” Ashworth said. “It’s definitely a unique opportunity for both programs because we don’t play Michigan that often. They’ve beat UNC, they’ve beat Miami and those are our two highest-ranked teams, so there’s definitely some conference pride involved as well.”
One of the biggest keys of the match for both teams will be seizing momentum early. The Blue Devils have come away with the doubles point in their last two matches and now stand at a perfect 13-0 when heading into singles play up a point.
But Duke will be tested by a Michigan squad that excels early as well.
Despite being forced to use 12 different doubles lineups this season due to injuries, Michigan has yet to lose this season when securing the doubles point. The Wolverines went 6-0 in doubles play against Wisconsin and Minnesota this weekend behind the freshmen duo of Fahey and Minor in the top spot along with Yurovsky and junior Sara Remynse in the No. 3 spot. Michigan’s duo of Minor and sophomore Mira Ruder-Hook has led the way for the squad with six victories in the No. 1 spot and is ranked No. 16 entering the contest.
“In the big matches this year that we’ve won…we’ve played really good doubles,” Ashworth said. “If we come out with a lot of energy at the start and show Michigan that we’re willing to compete for that doubles point, we’ll kind of let the results take care of themselves and see where we are after that. But if we come out a little flat, Michigan is definitely a team that could jump all over us in the doubles.”
Wednesday’s match will mark the second of four straight contests at home for the Blue Devils. With the season slowly coming to a close and fatigue catching up to teams around the country, Duke will look to continue to capitalize by playing its best on its home court.
“It’s all about time management at this time of the year,” Ashworth said. “Every team is a little bit fatigued and every team is a little bit tired, but at the same time every team is in the exact same situation.”
Following the tilt with the Wolverines, the Blue Devils will host Boston College Saturday before taking on N.C. State April 12.