The Blue Devils were not at their best this weekend at Notre Dame and Boston College, but pulling out road wins in conference play has just as much to do with toughness and winning the big points.
And once again, Duke was the more mature team to preserve its unblemished mark in ACC action.
The No. 15 Blue Devils squandered a 3-0 lead before getting a clutch victory from senior Chalena Scholl to upend Notre Dame 4-3 Friday evening at Eck Tennis Pavilion in Notre Dame, Ind., then overcoming a 2-1 deficit with four straight wins to knock off Boston College 5-2 Sunday afternoon at Flynn Recreation Center in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Although their teammates struggled at times, Scholl and sophomore Kaitlyn McCarthy remained perfect in ACC action in singles as head coach Jamie Ashworth’s team extended its overall winning streak to 11.
Duke has not lost since Feb. 22.
“These past two matches have just been mental battles,” Ashworth told GoDuke.com. “I don’t think we played great but we competed really well and were mentally the better team.”
After Clemson’s upset victory in doubles last week, the Blue Devils (15-3, 9-0 in the ACC) got back on track against the Fighting Irish (16-5, 7-4).
Duke’s tandem of sophomore Ellyse Hamlin and junior Samantha Harris cruised to a 6-0 victory on Court 3 before Notre Dame bounced back at No. 2 doubles with Brooke Broda and Allison Miller beating Scholl and senior Alyssa Smith 6-1. But the No. 35 tandem of freshman Meible Chi and McCarthy broke a 4-4 tie with two straight games to seal the doubles point.
“We played a really good match at three,” Ashworth said. “We’ve been working with those guys really hard and they came out and played a great match. And getting the doubles point today was huge for us.”
It looked like the Blue Devils could be on their way to a rout when 24th-ranked Chi bested Broda 6-4, 6-1 and McCarthy dominated Zoe Spence 6-2, 6-1 to quickly make it 3-0.
However, Notre Dame showed why it is in the top five in the conference, roaring back to knot the score.
First, No. 71 Monica Robinson bested 65th-ranked Harris 7-5, 6-1 by taking control in the second set. Minutes later, Rachel Chong made it 3-2 by besting Hamlin 6-2, 6-4, and Mary Closs won the biggest points against Smith on Court 5. She pulled out a 6-4 first set then controlled a second-set tiebreaker 7-2 to direct all eyes on Court 3, where No. 57 Scholl was battling Allison Miller.
And for the second time this year, Scholl tipped a 3-3 match in her team’s favor.
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Despite dropping the first set 6-0, the Pompano Beach, Fla., native found her footing with a 6-2 second set, then broke a 2-2 tie in the deciding set by ripping off four straight games to seal the 4-3 victory.
“She did a great job of putting that first set behind her,” Ashworth said. “Those first couple games of the second set were key. The most important game for her was the first one of the second set. She played a great third set too and she should be proud of that effort.”
Although Boston College (8-10, 3-7) is in the bottom tier of the conference, the Eagles fought back Sunday after Hamlin and Harris and Chi and McCarthy gave Duke an easy point in doubles.
On Court 1, Asiya Dair cruised past Harris—who has lost four of her past six matches—6-2, 6-1, and Lexi Borr pulled off a huge upset against Chi 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles to put the home team in front.
But as they have all season, McCarthy and Scholl righted the team’s ship.
McCarthy struggled to create separation from Kylie Wilcox early on before gutting out a 6-4 first set and pulling out a second-set tiebreak 7-4 to make the overall score 2-2. For the second straight match, Scholl shook off a rough first set and controlled the second and third frames, only dropping four games combined in the sets to down Dasha Possokhova 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.
“[Boston College] definitely did [play good singles],” Ashworth said. “We got down on one, two and three there. The biggest thing was Chalena getting off to a good start on the second set. That gave us momentum there…. You have to put a hold on their momentum. It was huge for [Chalena] and huge for our team.”
The Blue Devils finally hit their stride in the final two matches on the lower courts, with Smith and Hamlin taking down their competition to cap off the win. Smith fought through a 6-4 first set against Emily Safron before claiming a 6-3 second-set victory to make it 4-2.
Hamlin closed out the afternoon by claiming a third-set super tiebreaker against Jackie Urbinati after the pair split the first two sets 6-3. A short time after it looked like the home team could be in position for the upset, Duke was leaving with another relatively decisive victory without playing its best tennis.
“It’s been great to know that we don’t have to rely on the same three people every one of our matches,” Ashworth said. “It would be great to win every match 7-0, but obviously that’s not going to happen. It was a good team effort and win or lose everyone did their job to the best that they could.”
The Blue Devils will look to keep rolling in ACC play against Wake Forest and at Syracuse next weekend. Duke still has tough tests against No. 4 North Carolina and No. 6 Georgia Tech—the other team unbeaten in conference play so far—remaining, making the coming weeks critical in its quest for an ACC title.