At the end of their first road trip of the season, the Blue Devils are left with a mixed bag. Duke finished its first trip to ITA National Team Indoors since the 2020 season 2-1 after losing in the first round to No. 15 Oklahoma and winning a pair of matches in the consolation bracket.
The fourth-ranked Blue Devils carried an undefeated record to Seattle, but they fell short in their first match Friday to the Sooners. Perhaps hoping for revenge for its Final Four loss to Oklahoma last spring, Duke fell 4-2 in the first round. The bright spot of the loss was senior Chloe Beck, who continued her strong play by recording her 10th-straight singles win.
After missing out on the event in previous seasons, head coach Jamie Ashworth took advantage of the opportunity to scout out the competition.
“It gives us a good look at not only where we are, but where other teams are at the point in the season,” Ashworth said. “We were out here with the best of the best and I think we take this opportunity and try and gain some confidence from it.”
Duke (10-1) took down two of those top teams this weekend, rebounding to win its next two matches against Stanford and Washington. On Saturday, the Blue Devils came out swinging against No. 6 Stanford, dominating to take the doubles point. However, Stanford opened singles play strong by winning the first set on all six courts and tying the match at 3-3. The match came down to sophomore Ellie Coleman against 88th-ranked Valencia Xu, and Coleman fought back to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, securing her team the 4-3 victory.
Duke dropped the doubles point Sunday night against Washington before changing the narrative and dominating singles play, turning the tables and winning the first set on all six courts. The doubles duo of Beck and Cameron Morra was equally strong on the singles side, with Beck getting her 12th-straight singles win and Morra recording her 100th-career singles win.
“We got better as the weekend progressed and we played a little freer as the weekend progressed,” Ashworth said. “We have to understand that when we play our best tennis is when we play free.”
Morra considered the weekend a success, despite the opening-round loss to Oklahoma.
“We got to spend time together and ultimately got some good wins,” Morra said. “All in all, a really successful weekend. We talked a lot this weekend about the character of our team, and we were really happy with the way we were able to show up against Stanford and ultimately beat a really good team.”
Despite finishing the tournament with two wins, the Blue Devils struggled with their doubles play over the weekend. For the first time this season, they dropped the doubles point, failing to get their matches against Oklahoma and Washington off to a strong start.
“We have to focus on being aggressive right at the start of [doubles] matches,” Ashworth said. “In Seattle, we played from behind a little too much.”
“We have talent, and we have people that can play doubles, but we have to understand that you can't feel your way into a doubles match,” he added. “You have to be ready to fight.”
Even though they dropped the doubles point, the Blue Devils were able to fight back and get the win against Washington. According to Morra, it was a sign that when this team goes down, it is not always out.
“You never wanna drop the doubles point, but we saw the character of our team again as we were able to be resilient and come back,” Morra said. “We were happy to see that we are that type of team that can do that.”
After a busy weekend, Duke is headed into a mini break before beginning conference play against Virginia Tech and Virginia, starting on the road Feb. 24 against the Hokies. The Blue Devils have the opportunity to recover and restructure before ACC play begins later this month.
“We have to practice with the mindset of practicing to get better, not just practice to practice. We’re definitely not playing our best, but our goal is to be playing our best in April and May,” Ashworth said. “And we’re progressing to that. We're playing better and are a better team than we were 10 days ago.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.