Deuce was the name of the game Sunday morning as the Blue Devils took down Louisville.
No. 11 Duke closed out its second homestand of the spring season still undefeated in Durham, picking up wins against both No. 14 Notre Dame and the Cardinals over the weekend. After their road loss to then-No. 20 Virginia one week prior snapped a three-match winning streak, the Blue Devils bounced back in their two-match homestand, starting by winning the doubles point Friday against the Fighting Irish.
“It’s definitely a boost to get the doubles point heading into singles, but our doubles has to keep getting better,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said Sunday afternoon. “We’ve won three of the last four [doubles points], but we’re never satisfied with that. We want to keep pressing and getting better.”
Despite defeating the Fighting Irish 5-2 and securing the doubles point, the Blue Devils (13-2, 3-1 in the ACC) surrendered the last two matches of the evening, even after Georgia Drummy clinched the match for the second time this season.
After the ITA National Team Indoors in January, Ashworth expressed the importance of the Blue Devils' improvement in doubles. Duke has now collected the doubles point in three out of its last four, but Ashworth is neither satisfied nor afraid to continue making changes to the team's doubles lineup.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is it shouldn’t matter who you’re playing with,” Ashworth said of the new doubles team of Drummy and Iuliia Bryzgalova. “If we do doubles play the right way, if we serve the right way, if we hit our returns right, it shouldn’t matter who your partner is, because they should know what to expect out of you.”
The new dynamic duo of graduate students Drummy and Bryzgalova has given the Blue Devils depth and flexibility as they work on strengthening their doubles consistency. Although they dropped the first game of their match Sunday, the two won six straight games to win 6-1 and advance to 4-0 in doubles action together this season.
The Blue Devils beat the Cardinals (7-6, 0-4) 7-0 Sunday, but they competed in long and close matches throughout the matchup. Two of the first sets in singles went to 7-5, and another singles match went to a third-set tiebreaker.
Graduate student Cameron Morra dominated her first set against Lousiville’s Jamilah Snells, winning the first set 6-2, but was unable to get a lead in the second set and fell 6-4. In the third-set tiebreaker, Morra won nine straight points to win 10-1, securing her match.
Sophomore Ellie Coleman and senior Chloe Beck both won their first sets 7-5 before winning their second sets 6-3 and 6-1, respectively. Beck was consistently challenged throughout the first set by Andrea Di Palma, losing the first two games before winning two consecutive games at deuce to tie the set 2-2. Di Palma battled back to tie the set once again at 4-4 before Beck capitalized on another sudden-death deuce point to win the first set.
However, Beck encountered more adversity in the second set. On a drop shot barely over the net from Di Palma, Beck appeared to claim she had tapped it back over, while the referee ruled that Beck’s racket did not touch the ball, giving the point to Di Palma. Despite this, Beck won the next point and never trailed in the second set, defeating Di Palma 7-5, 6-1.
“I feel like I’m playing well. I feel like the girls are playing well and we have really good energy right now,” Beck, who won her 19th-straight ACC regular-season match, said. “We’re using that momentum into each match and just taking it day by day.”
Even with the decisive win against the Cardinals and his team remaining undefeated at home, Ashworth spoke to the Blue Devils about closing out matches more efficiently.
“We need to worry about ourselves and not what our opponent is doing,” Ashworth said. “We have talented enough players, who have big enough games, that if we go out there and play our game and not really worry about ‘oh, my opponent is doing this.’ We need to make our opponents adjust to us, not us slowly adjusting to them. That’s something we have to focus on moving forward.”
The Blue Devils go on the road again this coming weekend as they continue conference play Friday at Clemson and Sunday at Georgia Tech.
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