With top singles player Beatrice Capra out of the lineup once again, Duke could not finish off the Yellow Jackets after fighting back from an early deficit.
No. 16 Georgia Tech dealt the short-handed No. 8 Blue Devils a tight 4-3 loss Friday afternoon. at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex in Atlanta. Four of the six singles matches went three sets—and three needed tiebreakers—but No. 49 Paige Hourigan outlasted Duke's No. 41 Kaitlyn McCarthy on court two to give the Yellow Jackets the win.
Capra—the team's lone senior—missed Tuesday's Senior Day win against N.C. State due to illness, and was unavailable once again Friday as the Blue Devils began their season-ending road trip.
“I thought that we battled back and gave ourselves some chances. I thought that we just missed shots," Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth. "We gave away too many points, to be honest. That’s something that we have to cut out, in a match like that. We can get away with it against some teams, but against a really good team like Georgia Tech, we can’t get away with that.”
Georgia Tech (16-6, 11-2 in the ACC) jumped to an early lead with a hard-fought doubles point, even though the Blue Devils (17-5, 10-3) grabbed the early advantage. The Duke team of freshmen Ellyse Hamlin and Jessica Ho defeated Megan Kurey and Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer by a score of 6-2 at the No. 3 doubles spot. Hamlin and Ho never trailed during the set and improved to 4-0 as a doubles pair for the season.
Hamlin usually teams with Capra as Blue Devils' most dangerous doubles pairing—ranked 14th in the latest ITA poll—but she slid down to court three to join her classmate with Capra out of the lineup.
“I think [Ellyse and Jessica]’s communication has gotten better,” Ashworth said. “Individually, they’ve had good doubles results. I think that they have had to adapt in order to be able to work together, and I think they’re getting better the more they play together.”
Soon after Hamlin and Ho’s match went final, Georgia Tech responded with a win on court two, as Rasheeda McAdoo and Johnise Renaud downed juniors Chalena Scholl and Alyssa Smith. Scholl and Smith trailed 2-5 and could not complete the comeback, falling lost 6-4.
With the score tied 1-1, the doubles point came down to court one, where McCarthy and sophomore Samantha Harris faced the No. 13 pair of Hourigan and Kendal Woodard. The back-and-forth match ultimately went 7-5 in Georgia Tech’s favor, dropping Harris and McCarthy’s record to 16-4 and giving Georgia Tech the early 1-0 lead—the first time in the last six matches Duke trailed heading into singles.
The first singles match went the Yellow Jackets’ way as well, as Alexis Prokupuik defeated Smith 6-0, 6-2 on court five. Harris chipped away at the lead with a 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) win against McAdoo on court three. The Melbourne, Australia, native ran away with the first set, but then blew a 5-0 lead in the second set. Down 5-6, Harris avoided a third set and forced a tiebreak, which she ultimately won, 8-6. The victory was her ninth consecutive win and 11th of the season.
Playing on court six, redshirt freshman Christina Makarova evened the match by defeating Natasha Prokhnevska in three sets, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. The San Diego native breezed through the first set but dropped the second quickly before recovering in the final frame, winning four straight games to secure the victory after falling behind 2-3.
The Yellow Jackets quickly regained the lead after Hamlin fell to Woodard on court four, 6-2, 2-6, 5-7. Hamlin led 5-4 in the third set but could not close out a victory, and the Blue Devils went down 3-2 overall. No. 97 Scholl staved off defeat, though, winning her match to even the contest at 3-3. Scholl took the first set from Renaud, 6-4, then dropped the second in a tiebreak, 6-7 (5-7). Scholl seemed to be on the ropes in the third set, facing a 3-5 deficit, but won four straight games to turn it into a 7-5 victory on court one.
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“[Scholl] did a good job of fighting back,” Ashworth said. “She saved four match points. I think that even when she was down, her energy level was really high. She was going to make her opponent earn it. Hopefully she takes some confidence from this match and keeps it going Sunday against a good Clemson team.”
The match came down to a marathon match on court two between McCarthy and Hourigan. The Blue Devil freshman stole the first set after coming back from down 3-5, but Georgia Tech's top singles player did not let the setback rattle her, winning the next two sets with relative ease. Hourigan won the final two games of the second set and never trailed in the third to deal McCarthy her ninth loss of the season, claiming the individual victory 6-7 (8-10), 7-5, 6-2 and securing the team victory for the Yellow Jackets.
“I was proud that we gave ourselves an opportunity, but at the same time, disappointed that we couldn’t capitalize on those opportunities because of some free points and decision making,” Ashworth said.
Duke will round out the regular season Sunday at noon at Clemson, before beginning ACC tournament action next week in Cary, N.C.