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Duke women's tennis clinches Sweet 16 appearance after dominant weekend

<p>Kaitlyn McCarthy helped the Blue Devils to a dominant performance this weekend.</p>

Kaitlyn McCarthy helped the Blue Devils to a dominant performance this weekend.

The rain did something this weekend that the two Blue Devils’ opponents could not: slow down Duke.

After the short rain-induced break at the Ambler Tennis Center in Durham Saturday, the Blue Devils put away James Madison efficiently as they only needed wins on courts two, three and five to do so.

Just 24 hours later, Duke continued its dominance, taking down Arizona State, securing a Sweet 16 berth.

The Blue Devils only lost a total of four sets this weekend across six doubles and 12 singles matches. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, fifth-seeded Duke swept James Madison Saturday afternoon, before the host team defeated Arizona State 4-0 in the round of 32.

“Playing at home is something we’ve earned,” Blue Devil head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke. “We’ve done a really good job of making this a tough place to play and we hope we get our fans out there for an exciting match. It’s the first time the NCAA has gone to a super-regional format and we want to take advantage of being here.”

Margaryta Bilokin checked in at the fifth singles spot and quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead before she took the opening frame 6-1. The New Canaan, Conn., native then once again broke Jona Roka’s serve early to go up a break. The freshman eventually took the set 6-3 to put Duke on the board for the second time against the Dukes (14-9).

On the doubles side Saturday, the Duke No. 24 duo of junior Meible Chi and senior Kaitlyn McCarthy defeated James Madison’s Emma Petersen and Daria Afanasyeva 6-1. Then the freshman tandem of Maria Mateas and Bilokin clinched the doubles point with a 6-2 victory against Amanda Nord and Michelle Los Arcos.

McCarthy led 2-1 on court three before she won the first set 6-4. The senior, in one her last singles matches at home, cruised in the second set with a 6-1 win.

Duke sophomore No. 21 Kelly Chen was the final Blue Devil to etch her name into the scorecard as she won the first set 6-4 and then clinched the dual match with a 6-3 second-set victory.

Chen’s victory sent Duke (25-3) to the second round, which was played the next afternoon against the Sun Devils (14-11).

“[James Madison] didn’t play with fear or with anything to lose. In spots, we played well but we have to be better. I thought maybe the two weeks off hurt us a bit,” Ashworth told GoDuke.com. “We went through stretches of three or four matches in a week and at the end of the season, it’s five matches in a week and then you shut it down for a bit. That hurt the crispness we’ve been playing with.”

Against the fourth-ranked doubles team Sunday, Chen and Hamlin took an early 3-0 lead against Lauryn John-Baptist and Ilze Hattingh. That advantage turned to 4-2 and then 6-3 as the No. 47 Blue Devil pair earned the first doubles win of the day.

“We played one of the best starts to our doubles that we have all season,” Ashworth told GoDuke. “Arizona State has really good doubles and their one doubles has been in the top five all year and at one point was No. 1. I thought Ellyse and Kelly played one of their more aggressive matches they’ve played all year.”

Mateas and Bilokin earned their second doubles victory of the weekend as they also used a 3-0 early advantage to clinch the doubles point with the 6-3 result. On court two, McCarthy and Chi led 5-3 and had a deuce deciding point to clinch the match when their freshman teammates won the match.

But after the doubles point went the way of Duke, rain halted play. The teams then continued with the singles portion of the Round of 32 matchup inside of the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.

Although the venue was different, the results continued with the trend of the weekend.

Hamlin, competing in her final team championship, did not drop a set as the senior won 6-0, 6-0 at fifth singles. McCarthy jumped out to a 3-0 lead before she won the first set 6-1. In the second set, the Cary, N.C., native went on to take the second set 6-4. The Duke two seniors put the team one singles victory away from advancing.

That final clinching victory came via Bilokin, who didn’t lose a game in the first set. The next was even through eight games. The set eventually went the distance to 6-6 before the Blue Devil freshman won the tiebreaker 8-6.

No. 11 Mateas, No. 33 Chi and Chen each lost their first sets, but fought back in the second sets. Chi, in the second singles spot, won her second set 6-2 and led 1-0 in the deciding third set when Bilokin clinched the team victory. Mateas and Chen were up 5-4 and 5-2, respectively, at the dual match’s conclusion.

The Blue Devils will host North Carolina State, which defeated VCU and Tennessee, May 10 in the Sweet 16. On April 10, N.C. State made the short trek over to Durham, and in the then-top 10 matchup, Duke walked away victorious 5-2.

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