As one of only three ranked ACC teams, the Blue Devils returned from a Florida road swing wanting their players on the lower courts to continue improving.
Senior Alyssa Smith and sophomore Ellyse Hamlin responded with a pair of strong performances, keeping Duke unbeaten in conference play.
The No. 17 Blue Devils dominated Virginia 6-1 Friday before Smith and Hamlin stood out again in a 6-1 rout of Virginia Tech Sunday at Ambler Tennis Stadium. Duke has now won seven straight matches since a disappointing effort at the national team indoor championships.
“For us for this weekend, we lost to Virginia Tech last year and we lost to Virginia at last year’s ACC tournament, so we had some added motivation and we took care of business,” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “We adopted the Patriots’ phrase, ‘Do your job’—if everyone did their job this weekend then we would be successful, and we were able to do that.”
Duke (11-3, 5-0 in the ACC) opened its weekend by handing Virginia (7-6, 5-1) its first ACC loss.
In doubles, all three Blue Devil tandems found themselves tied at 3-3. However, the No. 26 duo of Meible Chi and Kaitlyn McCarthy was finally able to break its match open with three straight games to secure a victory on Court 1 6-3. Junior Samantha Harris and Hamlin followed suit to close their match 6-3 as well, giving the home team the doubles point.
Duke found similar success on the singles courts, clinching the win thanks to routine wins courtesy of Hamlin, Chi, and Smith.
Hamlin dominated Brooke Sutherland 6-1, 6-0 on Court 6 to quickly give Duke an early 2-0 lead. No. 25 Chi followed soon after in her contest against No. 94 Cassie Mercer. The freshman breezed through the first set 6-1 and preserved an early 5-1 edge in the second for a 6-3 set victory.
Smith also delivered in her match’s big moments, winning the last two games of her first set against Camille Favero for a 6-4 win, then cruising 6-1 in the second to make it 4-0 in favor of the home team.
With the outcome decided, 76th-ranked Kaitlyn McCarthy dominated her opponent 6-0, 6-2, No. 52 Chalena Scholl pulled out a third-set super tiebreaker and 49th-ranked Samantha Harris dropped her super tiebreaker to round out the matchup.
“We played a good match [against Virginia],” Ashworth said. “We were really good emotionally. We didn’t give them anything to feed on. They’re a very talented team and a very well coached team, and they’re always very feisty.”
Against Virginia Tech (7-8, 0-6), it was a similar story for the Blue Devils.
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Although Chi and McCarthy were upset in doubles 6-1 by Caroline Daxhelet and Francesca Fusinato, seniors Scholl and Smith dominated 6-1 on Court 2 and Harris and Hamlin also prevailed 6-4 to avoid an early deficit.
Smith then quickly made it 2-0 Duke by shutting out her opponent at No. 5 singles, and Hamlin was not far behind with a routine 6-2, 6-2 victory.
“Alyssa Smith did a great job in singles,” Ashworth said. “We always say our goal is to get a quick match in singles and she more than exceeded that goal…. Following that up, Ellyse is getting better every match she plays. She’s only played four or five matches since October. It was great to see us improve.”
Scholl was next to finish for the Blue Devils, knocking off Elena Cerezo-Codina 6-3, 6-3. Although the Hokie attempted to string together a comeback in both sets, Scholl maintained control to close out the match and seal another dominant win for the team.
Chi’s Sunday match was not as straightforward, but the calm freshman overcame an early 2-0 deficit and second-set loss to prevail 6-3, 3-6, 1-0 (11-9) following a dramatic super tiebreaker on Court 2. Harris was not as successful at No. 1 singles, dropping a 6-2, 7-5 decision to Fusinato despite having several chances to break through in the second set.
McCarthy continued her recent strong play, prevailing 6-0, 7-6 (8-6) by digging in during her second-set tiebreak after blowing a 4-2 lead earlier in the set.
Playing their best tennis of the year, the Blue Devils will have several days off before returning for two more weekend home matches against Pittsburgh and Clemson—two more teams Duke is expected to crush if it can continue staying focused.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Pittsburgh or whoever,” Ashworth said. “We want to work on little things to get better, and that’s definitely going to be our focus. We’re going to keep improving, keep working hard, keep getting stronger—let the results on the court speak for themselves.”