Playing two long matches in a little over 24 hours is no easy feat.
As one of the top-15 teams in the nation and members of a strong conference, the Blue Devils headed to Rome, Ga., with the No. 5-seed in the ACC tournament. Duke began play Thursday, and it defeated No. 12-seed Louisville 4-0 before falling to No. 4-seed Virginia 4-2 Friday afternoon, continuing the season’s theme of struggling to beat higher-ranked opponents.
“I think we’ve unfortunately had to rely on certain people in certain positions. I think we have to get away from that, we can’t just assume certain players are going to win,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said after the Virginia match. “We’ve got to have that mindset of we have to win all six singles matches.”
The last time the two teams met, the evenly-matched Cavaliers walked away with a 4-2 win, although the Blue Devils’ Georgia Drummy and Chloe Beck were out with injuries.
But despite the return of Drummy and Beck, the Blue Devils still could not come out on top.
The duo of graduate student Meible Chi and junior Margaryta Bilokin were the first to lose, and Drummy and Kelly Chen then lost their match 6-3, giving Virginia the doubles point. Even though Duke had no wins from any of the doubles teams, the Blue Devils fought back in the singles.
Chi snagged a point for the Blue Devils in a very close match against Hibah Shaikh and Drummy picked up another singles point for Duke against Natasha Subhash, the ninth-ranked player in the nation.
“The coaches have been encouraging me to just play my game and on court I’ve been playing a lot more confident in my shots when I have the support of them behind me,” Drummy said. “[Against Natasha] I didn’t think about any of the rankings or anything like that and just focused more on playing my game and not on my opponent.”
The two singles wins were not enough to tip the match in favor of Duke, though, as Chen and freshman Karolina Berankova lost their matches, making progression to the semifinals depend on Bilokin and sophomore Chloe Beck.
Beck was in the middle of playing a close match when Bilokin lost in three sets, allowing Virginia to win and move on to the semifinals.
Despite Duke’s early tournament exit, things started out on a much higher note against Louisville.
The No. 2 doubles duo of Beck and Berankova and the No. 3 doubles team of Chen and Drummy started the match shaky, but were able to get the doubles point with each duo securing a 6-3 win.
“We had a little bit of nerves in the start and I thought that we were able to overcome that and settle down and play our game,” Ashworth said after the Louisville match.
As for the singles matches, Beck started the competition off strong in the first postseason appearance of her Duke career, winning 6-2, 6-2 against Louisville’s Raven Neely. Despite the Watkinsville, Ga., native’s youth, Beck has stood out as a leader for the team this entire season.
“Chloe’s really been a rock for us all year. No matter where she’s put in the lineup, she’s just Chloe,” Ashworth said. “She just does what she does and says ‘I’m going to do it better than you.’”
Drummy also took home a singles win in the one spot and senior Hannah Zhao clinched the win for the Blue Devils with a 7-5, 6-0 win on court six.
Duke now awaits the May 3 selection day, on which it will likely hear its name called for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
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