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Duke women's tennis nabs victory on Senior Day without Capra

<p>With senior Beatrice Capra unable to play on Senior Day due to illness, freshman Ellyse Hamlin stepped up and clinched a Duke win for the second straight match Tuesday.</p>

With senior Beatrice Capra unable to play on Senior Day due to illness, freshman Ellyse Hamlin stepped up and clinched a Duke win for the second straight match Tuesday.

The Blue Devils were eager to close out their home slate on Senior Day with their lone honoree leading the way on court one. But Beatrice Capra did not take the court Tuesday as illness prevented her from competing.

Despite playing with a shorthanded roster, No. 8 Duke defeated N.C. State 6-1 by earning straight-set wins on all but the No. 1 singles court. Capra’s absence was felt before the match began, as her sister Pia joined the team at center court to accept flowers and an award on her behalf.

“With Beatrice not being here and missing her Senior Day stuff, it has been emotional for everybody on our team,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “Before the match, we talked about what kind of player Beatrice is and how she is such a great competitor. Our goal for today was to have everybody play like her—not giving up anything on the court and grinding out every point.”

Without Capra as her partner at the top doubles spot, freshman Ellyse Hamlin moved down to court three to play with classmate Jessica Ho against Barbara Mancera and Amanda Rebol. The doubles point came down to the rookie duo after the Blue Devils (17-4, 10-2 in the ACC) and the Wolfpack (12-10, 4-8) split the first two matches. Samantha Harris and Kaitlyn McCarthy dispatched Martina Frantova and Tayla Stenta 6-2 at No. 1 doubles, but Chalena Scholl and Alyssa Smith lost six straight games after claiming a 3-0 lead to give N.C. State’s Joanna Nalborska and Bianca Moldovan the 6-3 win.

Capra’s substitute stepped up to put Duke on the scoreboard, hitting the match winner from the net and clinching the doubles point with a 6-4 win on court three.

“Not having Beatrice here on her senior day was an emotional day for all of us,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely difficult coming out and not having Beatrice [as my partner], who I’ve been playing with this whole year. But Jessica and I did a good job of communicating and making adjustments to each other.”

Hamlin also clinched the match for the home squad with the third singles win of the afternoon. The Fairfield, Conn., native lost the first game but broke Moldovan’s serve and never looked back, rolling through the two-set match 6-2, 6-1.

Of her four matches before Saturday’s 6-3, 6-3 win against Boston College, Hamlin had lost three and left one unfinished. But the freshman is playing her best tennis as the regular season comes to a close, earning the fourth point to clinch the team match for the second consecutive contest.

“It has definitely been nice clinching for these past two matches,” Hamlin said. “I’ve been struggling throughout this whole year, so getting those and getting that confidence back is very helpful heading into the last two away matches and ACCs.”

Harris and Ho set Hamlin up to give the Blue Devils the win after recording the first two singles victories. Harris, competing two spots up from her usual No. 4 position for just the fourth time this season, led all players off the courts with a quick 6-1, 6-1 victory against Nalborska. Ho dropped only one game in her 6-0, 6-1 rout of Rebol.

Redshirt freshman Christina Makarova put Duke up 5-0 thanks to her 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Stenta after Hamlin’s match had finished, and all eyes turned to courts one and six to watch the end of the two closest matches of the day.

The Blue Devils were also competing without Scholl in the singles lineup as Ashworth and his coaching staff elected to give the junior rest and test his young players in a high-pressure situation. The decision brought Smith into the lineup at No. 6 singles.

Playing in just her fifth singles match of the season and first since March 20 at Louisville, Smith struggled in the opening games and trailed Mancera 2-4. But the Laguna Niguel, Calif., native came storming back to tie the first set 5-5. Smith fought through a tight tiebreaker to claim the opening frame 7-6 (9-7) and had little difficulty closing out the win, never trailing in the second set—which she won 6-3.

“Alyssa played a good match. She hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, and I think she did a great job of taking advantage of the opportunity she had today,” Ashworth said. “One thing that Alyssa does really well is bring emotion to the court. Having her out there on the court was especially good for us today.”

Without Capra to take on No. 51 Frantova, No. 41 McCarthy stepped up to fill the shoes of Duke’s top player. The freshman was frustrated by Frantova’s power in the first set, losing the frame 3-6.

But as her teammates wrapped up their singles matches and came to stand on the sidelines by court one, McCarthy found the emotion and energy to fight back. She hit a decisive winner from the net to claim her first lead of the second set 4-3 and then broke Frantova’s serve with four straight points to set up her win in the frame 6-4.

But N.C. State earned its lone point in the team contest as Frantova claimed the third-set tiebreaker 10-8.

“Kaitlyn stepped up when she needed to. I don’t think Kaitlyn lost that match—[Frantova] won that match,” Ashworth said. “When there were big points, [Frantova] hit some winners and put Kaitlyn in trouble, but Kaitlyn did a great job of fighting and competing and getting herself back into it.”

Although Capra’s timeline for return is unknown, the Blue Devils will have to stay on their game for the final two matches of the regular season to keep alive their hopes of a top-four seed and two-day bye in the ACC tournament.

Duke will hit the road to take on Georgia Tech in Atlanta Friday at 3 p.m. before heading to Clemson, S.C., for a match against the Tigers Sunday at noon.


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