Just a couple of weeks ago, the Blue Devils came up winless in a trip to Florida, losing two close matches to ACC rivals Miami and Florida State.
But ever since the team’s return to North Carolina, Duke has found its groove. This past weekend was no different. In both wins and losses, one thing that has been consistent for the team is the play of junior Chloe Beck, whose talent and work ethic has helped to make her the ninth-ranked player in the country.
“Chloe has been so solid for us all year,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said of Beck. “And she's just someone that we've leaned on the last couple of years. She takes care of what she needs to do. She competes, she fights, she works hard every day, it doesn't matter if it's practice or a match. She's committed to getting better.”
Friday evening, in front of a large crowd of Duke faithful, the 10th-ranked Blue Devils shut down Georgia Tech to secure their third straight win. After winning the doubles point early, strong performances from seniors Margaryta Bilokin and Kelly Chen gave Duke (15-3, 10-2 in the ACC) an early 3-0 lead.
Soon after, freshman Ellie Coleman was able to fight off Rosie Garcia Gross in the third set to notch the match-winning point. Beck would go on to win her singles match after dropping the first set, giving Duke the final point it would need to take the 5-2 victory against the Yellow Jackets (12-8, 7-4).
To continue that momentum, Duke took down Clemson Sunday afternoon in decisive fashion. Beck and Coleman took a 6-3 win in their doubles match, quickly followed by another 6-3 victory from senior Georgia Drummy and sophomore Karolina Berankova to give the Blue Devils the doubles point and the advantage against the Tigers (10-10, 2-8).
Once the singles matches got going, the Blue Devils never looked back. After dropping a few games early, Beck stormed back against Clemson's Cristina Mayorova to win the first set 6-4. As the intensity of the match escalated, so did Beck’s play, and she stomped through the second set without losing a single game.
“I brought a lot of energy,” Beck said. “And because I brought a lot of energy, I was able to stay in the matches and then started striking the ball better towards the end of both doubles and singles. Once I started taking more chances and taking bigger cuts at the ball, the ball started dropping in, and I was just a more aggressive player towards the end of the match.”
With straight-set victories from graduate student Eliza Omirou and freshman Emma Jackson, Duke took a 4-0 lead and ensured the win against the Tigers. After additional singles points from Bilokin and Coleman, the Blue Devils would end the match at a dominating 6-1 final score.
With the regular season coming to a close, Duke has just one more obstacle in its sights before postseason play: undefeated North Carolina. If there was ever a test for the strength of the Blue Devils, it is now staring them in the face in the form of a Friday matchup against the top-ranked Tar Heels.
“It's a great opportunity for us to really see where we stand,” Ashworth said of the upcoming match. “They've been ranked at the top of the rankings. And we get a shot at them before the postseason.”
In the coming weeks, the Blue Devils will face their toughest opponents in the matches that mean the most. They will be forced to elevate their play to the significance of the moment if they are to succeed. For Beck, however, the best results come not through expectations and pressure to excel but in simply enjoying the game.
“I don't really hold any expectations for myself, because that allows me to play freely,” Beck said. “I just want to keep the energy up and keep having fun with my teammates. So that's the only expectation that I have. And I think we can do some big things.”
With Beck at the helm and a slew of talented players surrounding her, the Blue Devils have no plans of slowing down.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.