DURHAM, N.C. – The ninth-ranked Duke women’s tennis team continues its Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) slate Wednesday as they travel to Chapel Hill to take on top-ranked North Carolina at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center at 3 p.m. The Blue Devils own a 14-6 overall record this season, including a 5-3 mark in ACC play and are in the midst of a five-match road trip that will conclude April 20th with a trip to Boston College.
“We just have to play with confidence and play with belief,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “North Carolina is a very good team and is one of the best in the country. We know that every time we play them there is going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of fight and a lot of grit, and the team that’s willing to pay the price is usually going to be successful. A lot of the matches that we’ve had with them come down to an individual level, a third set, and it just comes down to believing in ourselves and trusting ourselves and hopefully we can do that.”
Last weekend, the Blue Devils went 1-1 on their trip to Florida, topping No. 30 Florida State Friday in Tallahassee, before falling to 10th-ranked Miami Sunday in Coral Gables. On Friday, the squad rallied from a 1-3 deficit to level the match at 3-3 before sophomore Annie Mulholland capped the comeback with a thrilling three-set victory over the Seminole’s Amy Sargeant, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. The team returned to the courts Sunday where it fell to 10th-ranked Miami, 4-0.
Duke is led by junior Hanna Mar who was tabbed at No. 23 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings and owns a 7-5 singles record in dual matches this season. In addition to Mar, the Blue Devils are represented by three student-athletes in the poll, including sophomore Ester Goldfeld (No. 51), junior Marianne Jodoin (No. 99) and senior Mary Clayton (No. 110).
The Blue Devils and Tar Heels have met 73 times in program history, with Duke holding a 43-30 advantage. North Carolina enters Wednesday’s match with a 21-2 overall record and a 7-1 mark in league play, while boasting five players in the ITA rankings, highlighted by Gina Suarez-Malaguti at No. 7. Suarez-Malaguti has tallied a 12-4 singles record in dual matches this season, to go along with a 6-1 ledger in ACC matches. The two teams met earlier this season in the semifinals of the ITA National Indoor Championships, where the Tar Heels topped Duke, 4-0, to advance to the championship match, which they eventually claimed over UCLA.
“I think that we’ve realized that every time we play a match, we need to be willing to lay it on the line,” Ashworth said. “At the beginning of the year, we got away with some stuff just on talent, and now we have to play every point like it’s the last point of the match. We have to run down balls and we have to compete and fight. The longer we can make matches last, the better off we will be.”
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