For only the fourth time in program history and first since 2014, the Blue Devils sent a doubles duo to the NCAA semifinals.

At the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem, N.C., three singles and two doubles entries were awarded to the nation’s fourth-ranked team in the final ITA rankings. After senior Samantha Harris withdrew from both the singles and doubles competitions, the Blue Devils were left with two singles players and one doubles pair to maneuver their way through the draws. Sophomore No. 55 Meible Chi was defeated in the Round of 32 and freshman No. 8 Kelly Chen made her way to the Round of 16, but was eliminated.

That left only the No. 9 tandem of juniors Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin to attempt to finish off their season with a win. After storming into the semifinals with a third-set super tiebreak victory, the duo faltered early in the match and was unable to hold off the pair from Oklahoma State.

In their Round of 16 matchup with the Clemson duo of No. 21 Fernanda Navarro and Marie Leduc, McCarthy and Hamlin were not the first to get on the board Friday afternoon. The Tigers missed an overhead into the net as the Duke pair broke right back to even the set at 2. After four straight holds of serve, Clemson missed a crosscourt backhand into the net to give McCarthy and Hamlin a break. But the Tigers recovered and took the next game after Duke missed a shot in the net. McCarthy hit a crosscourt angle forehand to the right of both Tigers at the net to put the Blue Devils up a break at 6-5, and on set point, the Clemson duo missed a shot long to give Duke the one set advantage.

In the second frame, the Blue Devils got out to a better start. McCarthy and Hamlin broke Clemson to take the lead and then held serve on deuce to take a 2-0 advantage. The Tigers held serve and then broke back on a backhand return crosscourt for a winner to knot the score at 2 apiece. After McCarthy and Hamlin broke Clemson’s serve for the second time in the set and held their own serve, McCarthy hit a backhand lob to open up a 5-2 lead. And on match point, Clemson missed a volley into the net after Hamlin placed the ball in a difficult spot for the Tigers.

Chen started her Friday Round of 16 matchup with No. 18 Anna Danilina off well. The Blue Devil freshman connected on a forehand crosscourt and hit an ace down the middle to take the opening two games. After Chen also the next two games, the Gator senior finally held serve, and the set closed with each player winning her service game.

Danilina would recover to take the second set, and was the first to serve in the deciding set. She won a deuce point to open up the set and took a one-game lead. But Chen won a service game of her own to love to tie the score at 1-apiece. The Gator went on to win the next four games, including two breaks, to put Danilina one game away from a victory. Chen missed a forehand return into the net to set up match point. But Danilina missed a forehand long to set up a deuce point where the Gator doubled faulted after two lets.

In the next game, Chen missed a forehand volley on the first point and a backhand volley on the second point. Another missed backhand from the baseline set up a third match point. This time, the Duke freshman missed a forehand into the net to end one of the most successful freshman campaigns in Duke history.

“Kelly had her on the ropes, but when you let someone like that off the hook, they take advantage of it,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke after Chen’s defeat. “It’s a learning experience for Kelly. She’s had an amazing year and a great run here so I think she’ll take a lot from that, especially with what she has to do when she has someone in trouble. At this level, you might only get one opportunity to finish the match, and if you don’t, you might get beat. She definitely gave herself that opportunity and ended up losing a tough one.”

McCarthy and Hamlin next faced off against Vanderbilt’s No. 11 Fernanda Contreras and Astra Sharma in the NCAA quarterfinals Saturday evening. The Blue Devils hit a winner crosscourt to take the opening game on a deuce point. After three more holds, Hamlin hit an ace down the middle to give Duke the early 3-2 advantage. But Vanderbilt steamrolled back to hold serve and then break Duke to put the team up 4-3. That lead did not last long, as McCarthy hit a backhand topspin winner down the line on deuce point to knot the set at 4-all. But after two holds and a break by Vanderbilt, the Blue Devils needed to save a set point on deuce to prolong the opening frame. But a Commodore ace out wide sealed the book on a 5-7 first-set defeat for McCarthy and Hamlin.

“I told Ellyse going into the second set that the first set was extremely close. I felt like it was just a few points, here or there that made the difference,” McCarthy said after her quarterfinal match. “I said if we could tighten things up, we would see things swing in our favor. That was the case in the second set and we started making a few more shots.”

Facing a set deficit for the first time in the tournament, the junior duo went back to work. McCarthy and Hamlin split the opening two games before taking full control of the set. The Blue Devil tandem won the final five games as the Commodores missed a forehand long on set point, which sent the contest to a super tiebreaker.

In the breaker, Duke was the first to take a mini break to take a 3-1 advantage. That lead turned into 6-2. Up 6-4, Hamlin hit a forehand heavy-topspin winner over the head of Vanderbilt that dropped just inside the court to give the Blue Devils the 7-4 lead. After saving one match point, the Commodore deuce court returner missed a backhand slice into the net after setting up a Duke short volley.

Oklahoma State’s pair of No. 14 Vladica Babic and Sofia Blanco was next for the juniors. In this semifinal meeting, the Blue Devils were first on the board as they held serve to open the match. After the Cowgirls held serve to even the match at 1, McCarthy and Hamlin lost a deuce point on their serve to go down an early break. From then on, Oklahoma State took control of the set, winning the final six games.

Once again, Babic and Blanco took the first game from Duke duo after fending off two break opportunities for McCarthy and Hamlin. After another break, Oklahoma State’s server missed a backhand slice into the net to give the Blue Devil pair their first game win since the first of the match to put them down 1-2. The Duke tandem won the next two games to take the 3-2 advantage until Hamlin double faulted long to give back the break, which evened the set at 3-all. Duke then had to save two match points down 4-5 to prolong the set at 5-all.

After approximately a 10-minute rain delay, the Cowgirls held serve for a 6-5 lead. The Blue Devil pair had to save another match point to set up a deuce point. But on its fourth match point, Oklahoma State hit a backhand volley for the 6-1, 7-5 victory.

“I don’t think we played with the same fire and desperation that we’ve been playing with. We were a little bit too passive. We were hoping that the other team would miss rather than going after the shots,” Ashworth told Sunday. “We’d get a little momentum and give it right back. It’s something we have to work on as a team as a whole, in-match management. A lot of that match was in-match management. We play a great point and then miss a return. We couldn’t capitalize on any momentum. It’s a tough way to end such a great year.”

McCarthy and Hamlin finished off their junior campaign with a 33-9 record to accompany their All-American honors earned this week. Chen finished her first season off with 40 wins to only eight defeats in an All-American and ACC Freshman of the Year season. She also earned All-American doubles status alongside Harris by virtue of their seeding. Harris walked away this week with All-American singles honors as well with her fourth overall seed before having to withdraw due to injury.

The final rankings for both singles and doubles are set to be announced May 30, two days after the conclusion of the collegiate tennis season. The Carolina regional rankings will be announced June 6.