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Freshman Meible Chi impresses as Duke women's tennis shakes off rust at season-opening Duke Bonk Invitational

<p>Jessica Ho is no longer on Duke's roster after a standout freshman season and has taken a leave of absence from the University, a team spokesperson said.&nbsp;</p>

Jessica Ho is no longer on Duke's roster after a standout freshman season and has taken a leave of absence from the University, a team spokesperson said. 

Although the Blue Devils looked rusty at times in their first event of 2015-16, Duke's only freshman stood out and started her career on a high note.

Duke concluded play at the Duke Bonk Invitational Sunday at Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C., with freshman Meible Chi as the only Blue Devil able to win her singles draw. The event featured several different brackets for individuals to play multiple matches each, and Chi won the Black singles draw by going 3-0 in singles. The Weston, Fla., native came to Durham as a top-10 recruit and has wasted little time making her mark. Chi did not drop a set in singles this weekend, knocking off Florida's Peggy Porter 7-6 (4), 6-2 Sunday to cap off her first event. 

“She managed her game well. She did a good job of controlling her emotions,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke.com. “It was good to be able to see her on the court and talk to her so we can learn her mindset when she’s playing. It was good to learn more about her.”

Chi began the event Friday by dominating Furman's Katarina Weymouth 6-1, 6-0, then easily dispatched Chloe Ouellet-Pizer of North Carolina 6-2, 6-0 to reach Sunday's final.

One of her teammates did not have as much success against a Tar Heel during the weekend.

Senior Chalena Scholl, the 40th-ranked player in the country, won her first two matches in straight sets against LSU's Abby Owens and Florida's Spencer Liang. But the Blue Devils' top returner in singles from last season struggled Sunday, falling to North Carolina's Sara Daavettila 6-3, 6-2 to take second in the White singles draw.

In the Gold draw, Scholl's classmate, Alyssa Smith, finished the event with a 1-2 record. Smith concluded the event by beating North Carolina's Maggie Kane 7-5, 6-2 after dropping a straight sets decision to TCU's Marie Norris to start the event and falling 6-1, 7-6 (1) to LSU’s Ryann Foster in the consolation finals.

Junior Rebecca Smaller and sophomore Christina Makarova also suffered multiple losses in singles during the weekend, combining for an 0-5 record in their respective draws.

"We were much too passive all weekend. Even in matches we won, there were opportunities to be much more aggressive," Ashworth said. "In singles, we had some decent results. We got into the competitive flow pretty well, but we have to be better. Everyone that played now has three matches under their belt.”

Smaller and Makarova did get a win in doubles in Cary, knocking off Virginia’s Erica Susi and Teodora Radosavljevic 8-3 after starting the doubles event by falling 8-1 to North Carolina’s Jessie Aney and Alexa Graham. The Duke tandem finished with a 1-2 doubles record following a Saturday 8-1 loss to Tar Heels Cassandra Vazquez and Kane of North Carolina.

Chi and sophomore Elysse Hamlin also finished doubles 1-2 in their first event playing together, knocking off Rachael James-Baker and Ouellet-Pizer of North Carolina in between one-sided losses to LSU’s Becca Weissmann and Skylar Holloway and Virginia’s Cassie Mercer and Chloe Gullickson. 

The only Blue Devil duo to notch two doubles wins was the senior tandem of Scholl and Smith, who played three tight matches. After beating Weymouth and Ansley Speaks of Furman 8-6, Scholl and Smith beat Virginia’s Chloe Gullickson and Rosie Johanson 8-5. The Duke duo then fought Florida’s Anna Danilina and Spencer Liang Saturday in the doubles final of their draw, eventually dropping the match 8-7 (1).  

The Blue Devils who are selected to compete in the Riviera All-American in Pacific Palisades, Calif., in early October will look for more consistency, with more of the team returning to action for ITA Regionals Oct. 20.

"We have to clean up a lot of things before we start up again in two weeks with our doubles. First-serve percentages are something we have to work on in practice," Ashworth said. "Finishing points when we have the opportunity is another big thing."

This weekend also marked Duke's first competing without Jessica Ho, who was one of the Blue Devils' best players last year as a freshman with a 19-6 singles record. No official reason was given for Ho not being on the roster to start 2016-17, and a team spokesperson said that Ho has taken an official leave of absence from the University. 

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