After a tough weekend at the ITA national team indoor championships saw Duke drop three straight matches against ranked teams, the Blue Devils were determined to bounce back in their next match following a seven-spot drop in the national rankings.
Duke did just that, winning a close match to start ACC play off right.
The No. 17 Blue Devils triumphed 5-2 Wednesday afternoon at No. 16 N.C. State State at the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center in Raleigh. Duke fell behind early, dropping the doubles point, but quickly recovered thanks to timely performances in singles play by freshman Meible Chi and sophomore Kaitlyn McCarthy to earn a much-needed top-20 win.
The pivotal match of the day was at No. 3 singles, where senior Chalena Scholl dropped the first set 3-6 before immediately recovering to win the second set by the same score. The Pompano Beach, Fla., native jumped out to a 5-3 lead in the third set, but then allowed freshman Anna Rogers to rally to force a tiebreak. But Scholl regrouped to win the tiebreak 7-6 (5) and give the Blue Devils an insurmountable 4-2 lead, sealing the victory.
“I thought that mentally, we were the better team,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke.com. “That was what made a difference—we played the singles tougher than they did in the tougher situations.”
Duke (5-3, 1-0 in the ACC) got off to a rough start as the Wolfpack (8-3, 0-1) rolled in doubles, winning at No. 3 doubles 6-1 and knocking off the previously undefeated duo of Chi and McCarthy at No. 1 doubles 6-3. Doubles has been a strength for N.C. State all year—the team now holds a 19-2 overall record in dual matches.
“I thought they played much better doubles than us with their energy level,” Ashworth said. “We came out really flat in doubles, which is something that we haven’t done the last couple times we’ve played.”
But the momentum quickly changed when the match went to singles play.
No. 20 Chi won smoothly at No. 2 singles 6-2, 6-0, making short work of sophomore Claudia Siktorin. McCarthy also triumphed in two sets, but had to fight much harder to win tight frames 7-5, 7-5, against Adriana Reami.
Perhaps the biggest Blue Devil singles victory came from Samantha Harris, who snapped her five-match losing streak at No. 1 singles. The junior prevailed 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) against No. 30 Martina Frantova to give the Blue Devils a 3-1 lead on the day and like McCarthy was finally able to win the match's decisive points late in both sets.
“That was a huge win for Sam,” Ashworth said. “Sam has struggled [in] her last couple matches, and I don’t think [Frantova] has lost a match at [No.] 1…. I think you could see when Sam won that match, it trickled through the other courts.”
The Wolfpack fought back at No. 6 singles when sophomore Amanda Reboi defeated Rebecca Smaller to cut Duke's lead to 3-2. Although the Blue Devil junior forced a deciding set after dropping the first, she succumbed early in the third frame, falling 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
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That set the stage for No. 38 Scholl’s virtuoso performance, sealing the match for the Blue Devils with calm, composed tennis to win the tiebreaker.
Classmate Alyssa Smith capped off the day with a three-set win at No. 5 singles 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 against Bianca Moldovan. The victory broke a three-match losing streak for the Laguna Niguel, Calif., native and was another welcome development for Duke’s depth in the team's first outdoor match this spring.
“None of us played our best tennis tonight,” Harris told GoDuke.com. “We all were able to win when we’re not playing our best tennis. I think that will be really good for us moving forward, to have confidence that no matter what, we can always beat people.”
The Blue Devils jump back into nonconference play when they welcome No. 15 TCU to Durham Saturday evening.