Although she lost her last five singles matches that went to completion, freshman Kaitlyn McCarthy has a chance to do something none of her teammates can—put the Blue Devils' second-round NCAA tournament loss behind her.
McCarthy, the 55th-ranked singles player in the country, will compete in the NCAA singles championship starting Wednesday at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla. With senior Beatrice Capra out for the year due to injury, McCarthy will be the only Duke player competing this week even though Capra also qualified in singles and the doubles team of Capra and freshman Elysse Hamlin was selected to compete in the doubles championship.
For the second straight year, the ninth-seeded Blue Devils were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament 4-2 May 14 at home after upset-minded Texas won four consecutive singles matches.
McCarthy lost her singles and doubles matches against the Longhorns, but will look to find her footing in her final event of the year with several days off to focus on her individual game.
"The biggest thing was first getting over the disappointment of the team not being in Tulsa. Then second, realizing that she has a great opportunity to finish out her season on a really strong note," Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth said. "It's hard because she's the only one hitting right now, she's the only one practicing, but you've got to not let that get to you."
McCarthy won 13 of her first 14 singles matches beginning last fall and was as high as No. 21 in the national rankings before faltering late in the year. The Cary, N.C., native struggled with unforced errors late in the season and, like several of her classmates, was unable to find her footing during the NCAA tournament.
McCarthy lost the first set to Virginia Commonwealth's Magda Aubets 6-2 in the first round before taking a 6-5 lead in the second when the match was called because the Blue Devils had secured a 4-0 win.
A day later, McCarthy fell to Texas' Danielle Wagland 6-3, 6-2.
Ashworth said the second-team All-ACC performer needs to be more aggressive during rallies and focus on cleaning up her serve to bounce back in the singles competition, adding that there is a different pressure element when competing as an individual.
McCarthy will open play Wednesday at 5 p.m. against No. 64 Kimmy Guerin of Wake Forest. McCarthy was originally slated to take on No. 46 Taylor Davidson of Stanford, but she withdrew from the event.
"[McCarthy] has struggled at the end of the year serving, and we've made some changes in the last few weeks looking toward next week but the future as well to make it more consistent," Ashworth said.
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