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Harris falls in regional championship for Duke women's tennis

Coming off a win Sunday against the No. 4 player in the nation, Samantha Harris looked to add an ITA Carolinas Regional Championship to her already impressive resume.

But Winthrop’s No. 55 Lauren Proctor stopped the senior in her quest for a championship, defeating Harris 7-6(7), 6-2 Monday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center in Chapel Hill. With a finals appearance for the Duke senior, No. 54 Harris earned a place in the singles draw of the ITA Fall Championships Nov. 1-5.

“[Harris] played some of the best tennis she’s played at Duke. I thought that she played aggressively. I thought that she was able to build on games and build on points,” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “She had some tough matches along the way.... It was good to see conditioning wise.”

The finals match for Harris didn’t go as she would have drawn up, but the senior showed fight throughout. Harris had a set point in the first-set tiebreaker, but was halted by Proctor, who ripped a winner to draw even and wound up winning the tiebreaker 9-7. The second set didn’t show a similar score line, as Proctor powered her way to a 6-2 set win, which ended Harris’ regional.

“I don’t think that Sam could sit here and say that she lost the tiebreaker or lost the match. She got beat,” Ashworth said. “[Proctor] played some really big tennis on big points and it was a good quality of tennis the whole match. It was very high.”

Harris’ journey to the finals went through freshman teammate and doubles partner Kelly Chen. After bowing out in the semifinals together in the ITA All-American Championships earlier this month—which also qualified the duo for the doubles draw at the Fall Championships—they were back on the same court once again. But this time they faced off, Harris walked away victorious in a long three-set quarterfinal by a score of 6-2, 1-6, 6-1. Then, Harris faced off against No. 4 Daavettila—who defeated Blue Devil junior No. 57 Kaitlyn McCarthy in the quarterfinals 6-2, 7-5—and won 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.

The next best finish for Duke came by way of No. 20 sophomore Meible Chi, who lost 6-3, 6-4 to the top seed, North Carolina’s Jessie Aney. Like Chi, junior Ellyse Hamlin was defeated in the third round. Hamlin—straight off success on the doubles court—was taken down 6-2, 6-2 by the eventual semifinalist, Clemson’s No. 70 Marie Leduc. Freshman Ema Lazic lost 6-3, 6-1 to fourth-seeded Eliza Omirou from Wake Forest in the second round after defeating Clemson’s Daniela Ruiz 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4 to open up the regional Friday morning.

All six of the aforementioned Duke players won at least one main draw match. However, senior Rebecca Smaller could not join her teammates in the main draw, losing a tough second-round qualifying match to Elon’s Montana Moore 6-0, 0-6, 7-5 after earning a first-round bye.

“I think as a whole, we’re playing really well. I was impressed with our level all weekend with everybody,” Ashworth said. “Meible lost a tough match to the one seed from UNC and had some opportunities, and I’m happy with where we are as a group for the beginning of November here."

“Every tournament we’re playing, we’re getting better. I think its showing in our results. I think that the girls feel like they’re stronger, they’re more fit. They’ve put in a lot of work conditioning wise. You can start to see some of those results.”

With the doubles pairings of McCarthy/Hamlin and Harris/Chen already qualified for the doubles main draw at the Fall Championships, they were able to focus their practice time on their singles play. But Duke did enter one doubles team in the main draw this weekend. Chi and Lazic paired up for the first time in an attempt to join their teammates next month.

The tandem progressed through the first two rounds in order to face off against the top-seeded N.C. State team of Anna Rogers and Claudia Wiktorin. The Duke pair was then stopped in its path to a semifinal appearance, falling 8-3.

“The first match they played against South Carolina was a great match. They didn’t give away any free points. They were aggressive. They fed off of each other really well on the court. I was really impressed with their communication,” Ashworth said. “The second match that they played, they didn’t hit the ball as well, but they won because of that level of communication so that was great to see. Hopefully it’s something we can build on whether they play together or not down the road."

At the conclusion of the regional, only Harris qualified for the singles draw at the Fall Championships. However, that could change come Wednesday, when the tournament committee decides what other regional quarterfinalists or semifinalists will enter the singles draw. Thus, it is feasible that either McCarthy or Chen—or both—could join Harris in singles. But as of now, Ashworth can only wait and see what transpires, knowing he already holds two places in the doubles draw and one in singles.

For Chi, Lazic and Smaller, the next time that they will take the court is at the Kitty Harrison Invitational in Chapel Hill Nov. 3-5 back at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. McCarthy, Hamlin, Harris and Chen will be traveling out to Indian Wells, Calif. for the Fall Championships at the same time.

“What they know and the mentality we take is it doesn’t matter where a match is or when a match is, it counts the same,” Ashworth said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s here, in Chapel Hill, in Palm Springs.... A match is a match and that gives us the opportunity to put ourselves in the pressure situations, but results wise too, they count the same.”