MADISON, WIS. – The No. 9 Duke women’s tennis team could not mount a second straight comeback, falling to No. 5 North Carolina 4-1 in the ITA Team Indoor Championships semifinals on Sunday afternoon in the Nielsen Tennis Center.
The Blue Devils see their record fall to 6-1 on the season while the Tar Heels improve to 9-0 to start their season.
“It was definitely a tough match, either way if we were winning or losing,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “There was four three-set matches and you hope they go your way, but it’s such a fine line between winning and losing. In those matches, every point matters. North Carolina played bigger points just a bit better than we did. It was tough to see since I thought we could have won four or five singles if we needed to.”
For the second straight day, Duke was trailing after the doubles point. North Carolina started with a 6-4 win by Alle Sanford and Sara Daavettila over Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin. The Tar Heels clinched the first point when Jessie Aney and Alexa Graham were able to top Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen 6-4.
“We’ve got to work on our doubles,” Ashworth said. “We have two duos very highly ranked but it’s meaningless in team play. It’s a different kind of doubles, it’s quicker. We can’t grind out doubles in dual matches, we have to take care of business. Our entire weekend was on the defensive.”
In singles, Duke picked up its energy and won the first set on four of the six courts. However, the Blue Devils could close out only one match in straight sets as Meible Chi beat Aney 6-2, 6-4 to tie the match at one. Chi improves to 7-0 in dual matches this season, all on court five.
North Carolina wasted little time in regaining the lead. Daavettila pushed past McCarthy 6-2, 6-2 on court two and soon after, Graham beat Hamlin 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 on court four. It was just the first dual match loss for both Hamlin and McCarthy this year.
Duke came close to grabbing its second point on court six as Hannah Zhao and Chloe Oullet-Pizer went to a second set tiebreaker with Zhao leading by a set, but Oullet-Pizer won the tiebreaker to extend the match to a third set.
The clinching point came on court three as Makenna Jones closed out Chen 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“There’s no reason to feel sorry, it’s not what good teams do,” added Ashworth. “we need to get back to school and prepare as best as can for conference season. We can use this tournament as a huge learning experience. It allowed us to gauge where we are compared to the rest of the country. I think it showed we’re right there and can be best in the country with a bit of work and aggressiveness. We’ll hopefully learn and benefit from both winning and losing and be ready to start conference play next weekend.”
Duke will begin ACC play on Sunday, Feb. 18 as the Blue Devils head to Raleigh, N.C. for a match up with NC State at 2:00 p.m.