Before Duke could return to Durham for its ACC home opener, it needed to earn one more road victory to remain perfect in conference play.
After sweeping No. 47 TCU 4-0 Tuesday afternoon at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Fla., Duke traveled north to face off against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. From a perfect sunset in Florida to temperatures in the high 30s, the Blue Devils experienced a stark difference in weather. As a result, the Eagles hosted the ACC meeting indoors at the Flynn Recreation Complex. There, No. 3 Duke swept Boston College 7-0.
The sweep of the Eagles marked the fifth consecutive time the Blue Devils' opponent was blanked. That serves as their longest such streak since 1999, when the Blue Devils did not lose a single point for seven matches in a row.
“It’s not something we every really talked about. We just talk about valuing every point and doing our job and our role to the best of our ability. I know it sounds cliché, but we just go out there and play. I don’t think there’s one person that worries about the score or losing their match,” Ashworth said. “We’ve moved some things around with our lineup and done some different things, but it doesn’t really matter to them. They just want to play and be the best that they can on that day.”
To open up play, the Blue Devils (12-1, 4-0 in the ACC) rolled out their high-level doubles pairings en route to two 6-2 victories. The tandem of sophomore Meible Chi and freshman Hannah Zhao earned their sixth consecutive doubles win, taking the first three games to gain control of their match. In the second position, the No. 6 duo of senior Samantha Harris and freshman Kelly Chen held an early 3-2 lead before they cruised in the next three games to clinch the doubles point for the Blue Devils, their fourth doubles match victory in a row.
“We’ve been playing with a lot of confidence, trying to not put so much pressure on ourselves in our doubles and just go out and play and try to have fun with it,” Ashworth said. “Obviously, we need to keep our level up and our intensity up, but a lot of doubles is about attitude and we’ve had a great attitude. They’ve been really free on the court.”
No. 5 juniors Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin saw their match left unfinished, but the duo was in a prime position to earn a win. The doubles set finished 5-3.
On the singles side, Duke’s lineup saw some changes. No. 60 Chi played in the second position for the first time this year, while No. 7 Harris remained atop the roster. No. 55 McCarthy jumped into the third slot while No. 27 Chen moved down to fourth singles. The Blue Devils rounded out their lineup with No. 79 Hamlin and Zhao in the fifth and sixth positions, respectively.
Harris was matched up with No. 75 Asiya Dair, who defeated her 6-2, 6-1 less than a year ago. Dair knocked off North Carolina’s No. 8 Alle Sanford less than two weeks prior to her rematch with the Duke senior. Dair gained an early lead in the first set as she went up 3-2, but Harris proceeded to win the next 10 games on her way to a 6-3, 6-0 win, her team-high 10th ranked victory of the season.
“I think Sam played extremely smart. She played extremely disciplined and she made a comment to me before the match about how she was going to be in control of the match,” Ashworth said. “Overall, she’s playing with a lot of confidence and a lot belief in herself and trust in herself.”
Chen also fell behind before winning the final four games of the first set to put herself in a position for a win. The Cerritos, Calif., native went on to defeat Jackie Urbinati 6-4, 6-4 to put the Blue Devils one win away from their fourth road ACC victory of the season.
That clinching point did not come easily. Chi faced some adversity over the course of the first set. The sophomore lost her first singles set to Boston College’s Kylie Wilcox since the end of January and needed to win the next two to continue her winning streak.
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“[Wilcox] played an unbelievable first set. [She] was just swinging and was making a ton of balls. I think Meible did a good job of staying with what she needed to do and making [Wilcox] play, and we said to Meible, 'If the girl can keep it up and hit winners for two straight sets, then hats off to her,'” Ashworth said. “But Meible stayed in there and didn’t get frustrated and didn’t get disappointed and grinded out a good win for her.”
Wilcox cooled off in the second set and Chi took advantage. The Weston, Fla., native won 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to earn her 17th consecutive victory.
After Chi won, it was McCarthy’s turn to push to the score to 5-0 in favor of the Blue Devils. She did just that in a three-set victory 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 against Natasha Irani.
Hamlin and Zhao each earned straight-set wins, giving up only three and four games, respectively. However, their matches only began after Harris and Chen earned their own wins since Boston College (6-6, 0-5) only had four indoor courts to play on.
The courts played very fast, different from what Duke has been playing on recently. In the outdoor season, the Blue Devils play almost all of their dual matches with wind, which slows down the pace of the ball and increases the length of the points. Chi’s opponent took advantage of the indoor mentality early on, but she could not maintain the level of play.
“Mentally, we had to be really disciplined and really strong and know that because the courts are so fast, there’s going to be some winners hit,” Ashworth said. “But I thought we handled ourselves very well. We played a very mature match. We didn’t let the elements...affect our play.”
Moving forward, Duke will return outdoors for its next match Friday at 4 p.m. against Notre Dame before hosting Miami Sunday at noon for its first two home conference matches.
“We have a bunch of tough matches coming up, so we need to get back outside, hitting some balls, getting our fans out and our crowd behind us and get really ready after the spring break for our back half of the season here,” Ashworth said. “That’s the one thing that I can say is that in the middle of March, we keep improving and we keep getting better and we keep playing smarter.”