No. 18 Duke women's tennis dominates Syracuse, Boston College to collect first 2 ACC wins

Junior Emma Jackson winds up for a backhand shot against Boston College.
Junior Emma Jackson winds up for a backhand shot against Boston College.

What started off as a relatively easygoing weekend for No. 18 Duke with a 6-1 victory against Syracuse ended in two tiebreaks that showcased the Blue Devils’ newfound spirit, as they eventually took down the Eagles 6-1 as well.

Sunday, the team’s top singles player, freshman Shavit Kimchi, faced Boston College’s Marice Aguiar. Kimchi had taken the first set 6-3 but was struggling to close out the match. Neck-and-neck to start the second set, the Sdey Hemed, Israel, native couldn’t seem to control her serves or shots from the baseline. The set proceeded to run away from Kimchi, forcing her to play a deciding tiebreak. While the freshman started the tiebreak with a resounding overhead, she soon began to make some uncharacteristic mistakes. After a double fault and a few shots dumped into the net, Aguiar began hitting even harder. Although Kimchi tried to regain her footing by coming to the net and attempting a drop shot, Aguiar was always ready with a powerful return. In a last-ditch attempt down 12-11, Kimchi hit a lob over Aguiar’s head that landed just outside of the singles sideline.

“When she finally got up in the tiebreaker, she played tentative. I told her that, ‘when you're up, that's when you have to make someone come up with shots there.’ Hopefully it's a learning lesson for her…” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “When you have the opportunity to swing and to end points you have to do so. You can't hope the opponent misses, and I thought that's what she did a little bit.”

The last tiebreak of the day featured senior Karolina Berankova, who faced Seren Agar on court 6. The entire match until the tiebreak had been close, but Berankova stepped up when it mattered most. The Prague native had won the first set also by way of tiebreak (9-7), before dropping the second. Despite the tiebreak starting off on the wrong foot for Berankova as she was down 4-1, she found her groove just in time to even out the score. From then on out, the senior never stopped putting pressure on Agar. Particularly on lengthier rallies, the senior’s persistence and consistency shone. Berankova, who had struggled to receive Agar’s first serve throughout the match, went on to quite fittingly finish the tiebreak with an ace. 

Berankova’s victory sealed Duke’s 6-1 win against Boston College — its second ACC win of the season.

“Every time we play, it's an opportunity to show that we can keep getting better. Regardless of the opponent, regardless of what's going on, it's an opportunity to play the ball, not play the team across the mat, and just keep trying to get better. I thought we did that this weekend,” said Ashworth.

Coming off of two conference losses against Miami (5-2) and Florida State (6-1), the Blue Devils (8-4, 2-2 in the ACC) had something to prove this weekend. As such, the team played with a revived sense of urgency in its matchups against both Syracuse Friday and Boston College Sunday. 

“I told them if we can't be verbal in practice, there's no way you're going to do it in the match. It's just like shots that you select in the court. If you can't do it in practice, you shouldn't be trying it in matches,” Ashworth said about the changes made in practice over the past week. “I think we just have to practice that way, and practice being emotional and practice with a high level of energy. Then, it's easy to carry that into the match days.”

This emotion came out clearly in junior Emma Jackson’s match against Eagle Natalie Eordekian. Similarly to Kimchi, Jackson had lost her edge in the second set and was becoming increasingly frustrated by line calls from the umpire. Up 5-4 in the last set with the game on the line, Jackson was visibly upset when her first serve was called out by her opponent after being returned. When Jackson’s second serve was dumped into the net by Eordekian, the Illinois native let out a scream that told all of Ambler Tennis Stadium that one line call wasn’t going to stop her from winning the match. Jackson, along with Katie Codd, Iuliia Bryzgalova and Brianna Shvets finished the weekend undefeated in singles.

The team fared just as well on the doubles side, with the three pairings collecting only wins against both Syracuse and Boston College. On Friday, Jackson and Berankova teamed up to defeat the Orange's Emilie Elde and Shiori Ito 6-2. Shvets and Bryzgalova had their own 6-2 win against Syracuse, in addition to a 6-3 victory against the Eagles.

“We've just got to keep building and keep getting better and and keep having quality practices. Even our practices, we have to come out with that high level of energy. When you do that, the match days are the easy part.”

Looking ahead, the Blue Devils will continue ACC play with matches against Clemson and Georgia Tech on March 8 and March 10, respectively.


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