CHAPEL HILL—The Blue Devils knew it was going to be an uphill climb Friday as they faced off against No. 1 North Carolina inside Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. While that climb proved to be too steep and No. 3 Duke fell 4-1 to snap an 11-match winning streak, they showed promise to close the regular season with the possibility of a rematch in next week’s ACC tournament final.
“It’s the first time all year that I felt like the moment got ahead of us,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said after the loss. “The best thing we can do is learn from it. The best thing about our sport is, hopefully, we have another opportunity next week. I think we’ve realized what we can’t do and we’ve got to go out there and play how we’re capable.”
The Blue Devils (22-3, 11-2 in the ACC) dropped the doubles point Friday for the first time since their Feb. 26 loss at Virginia. The duo of Chloe Beck and Cameron Morra, now 15-2, lost 6-1 on the top line after scoring only one point in the first two games.
“We played too defensive,” Ashworth said. “We play our best doubles when we’re the ones controlling the tempo. They just got on top of us, especially on court one.”
The battle for doubles came down to Emma Jackson and Karolina Berankova’s match against Reese Brantmeier and Reilly Tran on court two. Neither side was able to establish a lead through the first six games, with the Blue Devils trailing 3-2 when the match was moved indoors due to rain.
In the third game, Duke led 40-15 before North Carolina head coach Brian Kalbas disputed a serve call that quickly involved both head coaches and the referee. After the point was granted to the Tar Heels (27-0, 13-0), the Blue Devils went on to lose the game at deuce and the match 6-3.
“Doubles is just so quick and every point matters. When something comes up, whatever it is, we just value every single point,” Ashworth said about the dispute. “You don’t win or lose a match from one call, but the value of each point is so big, we just want to fight and do whatever we can.”
While the match began outdoors, it was quickly moved indoors during doubles play. With a large Tar Heel crowd inside the packed arena as opposed to spread out outside, the change in atmosphere proved a factor.
“That got to us a little bit too. It brought the crowd more into it. It became a little bit louder, but it’s a great atmosphere to play,” Ashworth said. “We’ve got to be able to be tougher than we have been. Hopefully next week, we get another shot and can play them and get outside.”
Despite the 4-1 score, the Blue Devils had glimmers of hope and resistance. Drummy provided the only point for Duke as she defeated Abbey Forbes 6-1, 6-0, and Beck led Fiona Crawley 5-3 in the second set. The Blue Devils could have the chance to capitalize on those openings next weekend in the ACC tournament.
“There’s so many tough teams in the conference, whoever we play on Friday [in the ACC tournament] will be a tough match. We’ve got to get out there and just stay true to who we are,” Ashworth said. “We play our best when we’re physical and we’re emotional. We just got to make sure we do that.”
On court one, No. 1 Crawley won the first set 6-3. But No. 4 Beck quickly established a 3-0 lead in the second set and was in control when the match was suspended.
“We use the other matches for tiebreakers and stuff, but it had no effect on seedings,” Ashworth said on why the singles match was left unfinished. “With the tournament next week, neither [team] wanted to have anybody hurt on the court.”
“Fiona is obviously a great player,” he added. “I would have loved to see that match to completion. Hopefully, we can see that match again.”
The prospect of facing the undefeated Tar Heels again at the ACC tournament in Cary, N.C., does not appear to rattle the Blue Devils, who would look forward to the opportunity at a rivalry rematch.
“I don’t think I’m going to adjust anything. [Crawley is] one of those players that doesn’t give any free points,” Beck said. “We’re both very similar in that we’re going to try to run down every single ball. We’re not going to give our opponent anything to feed off of. I honestly love playing her because I know it’s going to be a toe-to-toe match.”
With the No. 2 seed secured for the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils start up again in Friday’s quarterfinals at 12:30 p.m.
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