After a rough weekend in Las Vegas earlier this month, Duke started the dual match season off on a high note at home Wednesday afternoon.
The No. 10 Blue Devils knocked off Elon 7-0 at Sheffield Tennis Center, cruising to two quick doubles victories to seize the doubles point then dominating all six singles matches. Duke will look to stay hot at the ITA Kickoff Weekend event later this week with national indoors just a few weeks away.
“We talked at the beginning about using this match to define what kind of team we are going to be from an energy and an effort standpoint,” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “I thought there were definitely some first-match nerves but for the fact that it is was our first match, the energy was pretty good. There are little things that we need to do better. Hopefully it is all a springboard to a good weekend.”
Duke (1-0) came out hot to start, with the duo of freshman Meible Chi and sophomore Kaitlyn McCarthy prevailing 6-1 against Elon’s Natalia Janowicz and Maria Paraja. After trading games to start, McCarthy and Chi ripped off five straight to prevail in their first match playing together.
On the other side of Sheffield, seniors Alyssa Smith and Chalena Scholl beat Olivia Lucas and Erica Braschi 6-2. Smith and Scholl picked up four straight games to start, before Lucas and Braschi claimed their first of the match. After trading games back and forth to make it 5-2, the pair of Blue Devils claimed the win to finish the contest and clinch the doubles point.
“We tried out some new doubles teams today that we started in Las Vegas last weekend,” Ashworth said. “The chemistry within the doubles teams was good. I thought even when we were losing some points, we did a good job at communicating with each other, and trying to build each other up, which is important in the doubles matches.”
After Duke easily claimed the first two doubles matches, the third remained unfinished. The pairing of Samantha Harris and Rebecca Smaller was beating Elon’s Kirsten Ward and Susan Zenoni 4-3 when the first team point was decided.
The momentum from the doubles matches carried into singles play, with the Blue Devils picking up victories on all six courts.
Chi, the freshman star, picked up two straight 6-1 wins to claim the victory against Paraja on Court 3. The 16th-ranked singles player in the country picked up a commanding lead in her two sets and did not let up. Chi, a Weston, Fla., native moved her record to 16-6 with Wednesday’s result.
“I was kind of nervous at the start because I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Chi said. “I feel like this match helped me trust in my teammates and they supported me, even at the start of the match. I think it will act as a good lead-up into the rest of the season because today was so positive.”
Chi’s quick win at No. 3 singles rallied the rest of her teammates. Scholl, the 34th-ranked singles player in the nation, defeated Elon’s Zenoni 6-2, 6-1 to get the Blue Devils within one point of victory. Scholl jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set before Zenoni climbed back to within three. After closing out the first set successfully, Scholl jumped out to another 5-0 lead and proceeded to earn her 11th win of the young season.
The good day for the Blue Devils ended on a high note with 76th-ranked McCarthy’s 6-2, 6-2 win against Olivia Lucas. In the first set, Lucas and McCarthy went back and forth, with McCarthy going up 3-2 early in the set before rattling off three straight games to claim the set. In the second frame, the Cary, N.C., native jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never relinquished it.
Despite the team competition being decided, the rest of the matches were played to completion. Harris defeated Braschi, 6-3, 6-2, Smith upended Ward 7-5, 6-1 and Smaller defeated Janowicz, 6-4, 7-6.
The Blue Devils return to action this weekend against William & Mary as part of the ITA Kickoff Weekend event. The match starts at 2 p.m. at Sheffield, with Tulsa and Northwestern rounding out the four-team field in the weekend tournament.
“I thought we did a good job of winning first sets pretty quickly, with Meible, Scholl and Kaitlyn. That is always important, winning the doubles point when we come out and getting a couple good first sets and not letting a team we are more talented than get any confidence,” Ashworth said. “That is something we definitely need to take away and especially against William & Mary it has to be one of our priorities, after the doubles, getting some good singles matches in.”
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