The sixth-ranked Blue Devils recorded a dominant spring season opener Friday afternoon, defeating Furman 7-0. Head coach Jamie Ashworth led Duke as the program moved to 17-0 all-time against the Paladins.
The Blue Devils came together in order to sweep the Paladins at Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center in Durham, with dominant singles performances from senior Chloe Beck and sophomore Emma Jackson and some grueling wins leading the way.
“Today was a great win,” graduate student Cameron Morra said after the match, “but it’s only the first one and we don’t want to peak today. So it’s all about what we can do.”
Beck ended her fall season with a consolation championship win over Anika Yarlagadda of North Carolina in the ITA National Fall Championships. She starts the spring season ranked as the No. 3 singles player in the country and lived up to that ranking Friday on court one, defeating sophomore Ellie Schulson in straight sets 6-1, 6-2.
In the most decisive match of the afternoon, Jackson contributed to the assertive win with her own victory against sophomore Marissa Pennings. Jackson, who is ranked No. 22, only dropped one game, definitively defeating her opponent 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3 singles.
The Blue Devils showed strength in all aspects, earning their 12th-straight home win. At No. three doubles, Jackson and graduate student Iuliia Bryzgalova battled back from an opening 0-40 deficit. The duo rallied, defeating Pennings and Schulson 6-1 and recording their first-ever win as a partnership. Moreover, after coming back from being down 1-2 at No. 2 doubles, sophomore Ellie Coleman and junior Karolina Berankova won five straight games to win 6-2 and secure the doubles point for Duke.
Beck and Morra also won together at No. 1 doubles, taking down Furman's sophomore pairing of Jess Dawson and Sara Snyder 6-3.
The Blue Devils had decisive wins, but they also excelled in close moments to expand their lead. Bryzgalova, a transfer from Penn, and fellow graduate student Brianna Shvets, a transfer from Princeton, both fought through 3-3 ties in the second set to win their respective singles matches. After taking the first set on court six, Shvets held her serve to make the second set 3-3 before winning 6-3, 6-4 and solidifying Duke’s overall win.
“During the close moments listening for the girls cheering is amazing,” Morra said. “The energy was really great today, especially for our first match. I’m really excited to keep getting better and see what happens.”
After winning four games in a row to take the first set 6-1, Morra lost the second set 6-4, sending the No. 2 singles match to a third-set tiebreaker. Morra defeated Dawson 10-4 for the win, showing determination in the close match.
A last-minute change Friday removed returning graduate student Georgia Dummy from the Blue Devils' singles lineup. Ashworth, who is entering his 27th season, attributed the change to getting everyone ready for the coming season.
“Our focus really is getting ready for that opportunity, and it started with this match today and getting our feet wet a bit,” Ashworth said. “We had three people on the court who had never played a match for us before, and there were some nerves, but they had to get out there.”
Duke will hope to continue its strong start into the ITA Kickoff Weekend Jan. 28-29. Before then, the Blue Devils face Charleston Southern and Charlotte in a doubleheader Sunday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., respectively, in pursuit of maintaining momentum before hosting that crucial weekend later this month.
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