One of the Blue Devils’ biggest strengths last season was their doubles play. But Duke, as of late, has struggled clinching that vital momentum-shifting opening point.
Attempting to formulate the most successful lineup from top to bottom, the Blue Devils mixed up the tandems once again and this time, the senior duo of No. 24 Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin were split apart.
The revised doubles lineup resulted in a victory on the doubles side and led to No. 3 Duke’s convincing 5-2 win against No. 22 Michigan. The Blue Devils traveled Saturday to the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., and picked up wins on courts two, three, five and six. Duke knocked off the then-No. 10 Wolverines 4-2 in Ann Arbor, Mich., last February.
Hamlin remained in the top spot alongside sophomore Kelly Chen. Saturday’s match marked the first time these two players played together in a doubles match. The newfound top tandem defeated Michigan’s Kate Fahey and Guilia Pairone 6-3 to clinch the doubles point after their teammates one court down earned the first victory.
On Court 2, No. 28 McCarthy and junior Meible Chi played together for the first time since November and earned the quick 6-1 win against Brienne Minor and Alyvia Jones.
The freshman duo of No. 80 Maria Mateas and Margaryta Bilokin reunited in the third spot and their match was left unfinished.
“I was happy with the emotion we played with in doubles,” Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke. “It was the most aggressive doubles we’ve played all year right from the start. We weren’t sitting back and hoping Michigan would miss. We were able to get on top early. I told them before the match that it’s not about talent. Since doubles is so fast, it’s really about emotion.”
On the singles side, the Blue Devils (10-2, 3-1 in the ACC) needed to only split the singles matches to clinch the neutral-site victory. But after the conclusion of the first sets, the match result looked that it would come down to the wire.
No. 19 Chi, Hamlin and Bilokin all won their opening frames by a score of 6-4. On the other hand, No. 18 Mateas, No. 23 Chen and McCarthy only won five games combined.
After the 0-1 match deficit, the Wolverines responded with a first singles points as No. 29 Minor defeated McCarthy 6-0, 6-2.
With the match score now even, the Blue Devils went on to win take control of the dual match with strong play across the board to swing the match back into Duke’s favor.
Chi, in the third singles spot, won cruised to the take the second set 6-0 against No. 21 Chiara Lommer. The Weston, Fla., native improved her record to 19-5 on the year, which leads the team in the win column. She is also 8-2 in the dual match season.
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The story looked similar two courts away as Hamlin won her second set 6-2 against Jones to put the team one win away from a 6-2 record against ranked opponents.
“[Ellyse] was great today,” Ashworth said. “She’s been playing with a lot of emotion and has been a great leader on and off the court. She’s unfortunately battled some injuries along the way but it’s great to see her have success. She’s a solid point for us almost every time we play.”
Hamlin sat out the entirety of the fall schedule but when she returned this spring, she has won all but one match. She leads the team with 11 wins this spring.
The clinching win would have to wait as Mateas lost her second set 5-7 after going down 0-2 to No. 4 Fahey to put the score at 3-2 Duke. The freshman returned to the top of the singles lineup after being moved down to second in the Blue Devils’ loss to North Carolina.
Chen responded after she lost the first set to take the second set 6-0 before inching out a 7-5 third-set victory against Pairone to clinch Duke’s victory. The sophomore is now 18-6 on the year.
On Court 6, Bilokin lost the second set 3-6 to set up a third, where she defeated Anca Carciun 6-4 to add to Duke’s score. After arriving on campus this January, Bilokin won her ninth match this spring.
The Blue Devils will return home next weekend for a pair of matches against ACC opponents. Duke will host No. 19 Wake Forest Friday evening before welcoming Pittsburgh Sunday.