With their four-game home stand coming to an end, the Blue Devils looked to preserve their perfect ACC record with wins against Pittsburgh and Clemson.
And yet again, depth on the singles courts kept Duke unbeaten on its home court.
The No. 17 Blue Devils blanked Pittsburgh 7-0 Saturday before running into a tougher challenge against Clemson Sunday at Ambler Tennis Stadium. Luckily for Duke, junior Samantha Harris and sophomore Kaitlyn McCarthy crushed their singles opponents early against the Tigers, giving their team the momentum to close out a seventh straight conference win 5-2.
“Every match we play is another opportunity,” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “Every match we play is going to be tough and we know that. To win a match like today should help us next week when we go to Notre Dame and Boston College.”
Even without star freshman Meible Chi—who had to sit out due to NCAA regulations regarding how many competitive matches individuals can play—Duke (13-3, 7-0 in the ACC) opened its weekend stretch with a routine win against Pittsburgh (3-9, 0-8).
The Blue Devils were fast off the doubles court, with McCarthy and junior Rebecca Smaller taking down their opponents 6-1 on Court 3. Seniors Chalena Scholl and Alyssa Smith weren’t far behind, taking down the Panthers’ top tandem of Callie Frey and Amber Washington 6-4 to seal the doubles point.
Ashworth’s team kept cruising in singles, with No. 49 Harris setting the tone on Court 1 with a 6-3, 6-0 rout against Washington. No. 76 McCarthy continued her recent surge by dominating 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2 singles, then 52nd-ranked senior Chalena Scholl clinched a fast victory against Audrey Ann Blakeley 6-3, 6-3.
With the outcome already decided, sophomore Ellyse Hamlin extended her team’s lead with a 6-3, 6-4 win, and Smaller and Smith closed out tiebreakers to preserve Duke’s second shutout in its last five matchups.
“We competed really well,” Ashworth said. “We played clean. One of the things I was happy about was that we didn’t waste a lot of points. Especially knowing that we had a match the next day, we were as efficient as we could’ve been yesterday. That was definitely good to see.”
However, after the Blue Devils breezed through the Panthers, Clemson (8-10, 3-6) proved to be a tougher test.
Although Duke’s duo of Scholl and Smith looked as strong as ever with a 6-0 doubles win on Court 2, the rest of the Blue Devil tandems struggled. Clemson’s No. 50 duo of Ayan Broomfield and Marie-Alexandre Leduc broke a 3-3 deadlock against the 26th-ranked team of Chi and McCarthy to take the match 6-3 at No. 1 doubles.
Harris and Hamlin also struggled throughout their contest, falling 6-2 to give Clemson the doubles point.
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“Clemson came out and just got on top of us,” Ashworth said. “It felt like it was an away match. They were so up emotionally and they were so loud and vocal—we have to do a better job when teams knock us back a little in the doubles.”
Despite a disappointing showing in doubles, McCarthy and Harris were quick to bounce back in singles. McCarthy cruised past Fernanda Navarro 6-2, 6-1 to level the match, and Harris notched a similar 6-2, 6-3 victory to put Duke ahead.
Scholl continued her dominant run in ACC play with a tight victory against Sydney Riley. The opening set was a back-and-forth affair, as Scholl pushed past an initial 6-5 deficit to force a tiebreaker. The Pompano Beach, Fla., native breezed through the tiebreaker, then moved to 7-0 in conference matches by breaking a 3-3 second set to prevail 7-6, 6-4.
But although it was down 3-1, Clemson kept fighting.
From the first set, Daniela Ruiz gave Hamlin trouble on Court 6. Ruiz controlled the opening set with ease, taking an early advantage at 6-2. Although the Blue Devil sophomore took the second set 7-6, Ruiz swung the momentum by prevailing 6-4 in the deciding frame.
Despite having multiple chances to seal the victory at No. 2 singles, 25th-ranked Chi struggled to put away No. 83 Broomfield. After Chi took the opening set 6-3, the Clemson sophomore fought hard to win a second-set tiebreaker, then overcame a 5-2 third-set deficit to force another tiebreaker. Luckily for Duke, Chi ended the drama there, winning the deciding tiebreaker 7-3 to clinch the win.
Smith closed out the weekend with another nail-biter against Constanza Gorches, shaking off a disappointing 6-4 loss in the first set to take the second 7-5 before ultimately winning the final set 7-6 (9-7).
The Blue Devils have yet to lose more than two points halfway through ACC action, and will look to stay hot at Notre Dame and Boston College next weekend.
“We needed a match like this,” Ashworth said. “We’ve had a couple where we’ve won fairly easily. We needed to play a match where we were under pressure on every court…. In the long run, this match will benefit us a lot.”