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Freshman Meible Chi makes semifinal run at ITA national indoor championships for Duke women's tennis

<p>Freshman Meible Chi upset the No. 3 seed on her way to the semifinals of the national indoor championships in Flushing, N.Y.</p>

Freshman Meible Chi upset the No. 3 seed on her way to the semifinals of the national indoor championships in Flushing, N.Y.

Meible Chi came to Durham with high expectations as a top-10 recruit.

But the freshman has already shown that she can compete with the best players in the country—regardless of age.

Chi won three matches at the ITA national indoor championships Thursday through Saturday to make a run to the prestigious tournament’s semifinals. An unseeded player in the event featuring the 32 best indoor competitors in the nation, Chi pulled an upset at the event at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., before eventually falling to the draw’s top seed.

The good news for the Blue Devils did not end there, though. Seniors Chalena Scholl and Alyssa Smith competed at the Kitty Harrison Invitational in Chapel Hill and both went 3-0 in singles as Duke wrapped up its fall slate.

“We definitely played our most complete set of tournaments of the fall with everybody getting results, not just one or two people,” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “It was definitely a good way to end our fall, and at the same time it gives us a lot of stuff to work on before we start again in January.”

A native of Weston, Fla., Chi had compiled a 12-3 singles record leading up to the biggest event of the fall. But she can take away a lot more confidence after holding her own against the nation’s best.

She started the week with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Michigan’s Alex Najarian, breaking a 4-4 tie in the second set to advance to the Round of 16 and set up a date with Pepperdine’s Luisa Stefani—the No. 3 seed in the event.

Chi and the reigning ITA National Rookie of the Year played a dramatic, back-and-forth contest, with neither player able to gain more than a two-game advantage throughout both sets. The first set went to a tiebreak, but with the score knotted at 3-3, Chi rattled off four straight points to seize early momentum.

The second set followed a similar narrative, with a tiebreak needed to decide the outcome. Although Stefani built a 6-3 lead in the second-set tiebreak, Chi mounted a comeback. Neither player gave an inch, saving multiple set points until the score was tied 13-13. Once again, it was the Duke freshman who came up clutch, though, winning two points in a row to escape with the upset.

Chi breezed through her quarterfinal match against Florida’s Josie Kuhlman 6-2, 6-2 to secure a slot in the semifinals against top-seeded Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State. Ranked the No. 3 singles player in the country, Di Lorenzo dominated Chi 6-1, 6-2 on her way to her second straight ITA national indoor singles title.

A sophomore, Di Lorenzo easily ousted North Carolina’s Hayley Carter for the championship Sunday—she only dropped one set in the entire tournament for the second straight year.

“[Meible] did a great job,” Ashworth said. “It was her first time in the main draw and for her it was a confidence boost. She just realized she can play with the best in the country and we’ve been telling her that and telling her that.”

Chi was not the only Blue Devil in New York—junior Samantha Harris and sophomore Ellyse Hamlin competed in doubles after claiming the ITA Carolina Regional last week. The tandem beat Maryland’s Kristina Hovsepyan and Alexandra Stanova 6-0, 6-4 before falling in a tight match in the Round of 16.

Facing the 19th-ranked tandem of Mayar Sherif Ahmed and Christine Maddox of Pepperdine, Harris and Hamlin dropped the first set 6-2 before winning the second 4-6 and then falling in a third-set tiebreak 10-7. Despite the loss, the Duke duo put forth another strong effort in its second tournament competing together.

Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, Scholl and Smith were busy putting together a perfect singles weekend. The seniors knocked off players from Texas Tech, Penn State and Iowa across three days of singles, combining to only lose one set during the weekend.

“Chalena and Alyssa played some really great singles, and Alyssa played probably the best singles she has played all fall,” Ashworth said. “Hopefully that gives her some confidence moving forward.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn McCarthy also went undefeated in two singles matches during the weekend, knocking off Texas Tech’s Felicity Maltby and Iowa’s Elise Van Heuvelen in straight sets. McCarthy was the team’s only representative in singles at the NCAA championship last spring, and will be a critical piece as the Blue Devils prepare for their spring dual season.

Junior Rebecca Smaller and redshirt sophomore Christina Makarova also competed in singles at the event, combining for a 3-2 mark, and Duke had two doubles teams in action as well. Scholl and McCarthy along with Smith and Smaller made up the doubles tandems, which both went 2-1 in three matches. The group had mixed results, suffering setbacks around several more match wins to wrap up their fall campaigns.

The Blue Devils will look to build on their strong showings when they return to the courts Jan. 13 at the UNLV Invitational in Las Vegas.

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