DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 3 Duke women’s tennis team advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for the second consecutive year and the 23rd time in program history after beating Oregon 4-2 on Saturday afternoon in Ambler Tennis Stadium.
Duke improves its record to 25-3 and a perfect 13-0 at home. It is the eighth undefeated home campaign under head coach Jamie Ashworth and gives the Blue Devils 27 straight home wins, the third-longest streak in program history. Oregon closes its season with a 16-10 record.
“We had to raise the level of how we competed,” said Ashworth. “That’s what I was talking about to the girls on the court, just compete. I really don’t think we hit the ball as well as we could and we weren’t as clean as we could have been. I thought we made a lot of errors that we haven’t been making, but we were able to compete really well. That’s important.”
After cruising in the doubles match in the first round on Friday, Saturday’s matches were tighter. The two teams split between courts two and three. Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao trailed Julia Lilien and Paiton Wagner 3-2 on court three, but the Blue Devil pair won four of the final five games to earn a 6-4 victory. On court two, Alyssa Tobita and Rifanty Kahfiani overwhelmed Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen 6-2 to square the match.
That meant the doubles point was decided on court one. Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin took early 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but the momentum swung to Oregon’s 74th-ranked pair of Shweta Sangwen and Julia Eshet as the Ducks tandem went out in front 4-2. McCarthy and Hamlin locked in after that though, winning four straight games to win 6-4 and make sure Duke took the important 1-0 lead.
The singles play proved to be as tight as the doubles. Duke claimed four of the first six sets, but two of those came by the slimmest of margins, with Harris and McCarthy winning tiebreakers.
“It was definitely a battle,” Ashworth said. “Oregon competed so well. They just never quit and just never gave up. It was hard to get a little separation, especially in the first sets. We just couldn’t get any kind of separation and use the momentum from the doubles. But hats off to Oregon, they competed. It was a tough match for us.”
As she has many times this season, it was Hamlin who was the first Blue Devil to finish her singles match. Hamlin won the final four games of the first set to create some separation from Eshet. Hamlin never trailed in her second set and was able to close out a 6-2, 6-3 win to make the score 2-0.
After Hamlin’s win, Oregon clawed its way back into the match. First, Sangwen topped Chi 6-1, 6-2. Then Wagner topped Zhao 6-4, 6-3 to tie the score at 2-2.
Duke regained the lead through ACC Freshmen of the Year Chen. The rookie from Cerritos, Calif., was tied with Daniela Nasser at two games apiece in both the first and second sets, but each time the Blue Devil pulled away late to win 6-4, 6-2.
With Duke one point away from moving onto the round of 16, it was McCarthy who punched the ticket. McCarthy played a back and forth first set with Lilien, as the two traded the lead twice and were tied on four times. Finally, Duke’s junior from Cary, N.C., edged out Lilien in the tiebreaker to earn the one-set advantage. That momentum carried over with McCarthy winning the first five games of the second set and finished off Lilien 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.
“I knew going into the match that Oregon was going to be a feisty, competitive team,” McCarthy said. “They bring a lot of energy to the match just from all the cheering and being in every single point, both mentally and physically. So I knew that my match and every match out there was going to be difficult. The fact that we were able to win so solidly was a huge confidence boost for us and we should take a lot of momentum going into the round of 16.”
Duke will head to Winston-Salem for the round of 16. There, the Blue Devils will meet the No. 14 seed, Northwestern, at 9:00 a.m., on Thursday, May 17.
“We just have to be cleaner,” added Ashworth. “We have to take some time in practice and work on easy balls. We did a good job of competing and setting ourselves up, but when it came time to finishing, we had some many errors, in singles and doubles. Hopefully a couple of good days of practice and of rest and we’ll be ready to go on Thursday.”
#3 Duke University Women's Tennis 4, #33 Oregon 2
- #6 Samantha Harris (DUKE) vs. #42 Alyssa Tobita (ORE) 7-6 (7-3), 4-4, unfinished
- #87 Shweta Sangwen (ORE) def. #55 Meible Chi (DUKE) 6-1, 6-2
- #116 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DUKE) def. Julia Lilien (ORE) 7-6 (7-3), 6-1
- #28 Kelly Chen (DUKE) def. Daniela Nasser (ORE) 6-3, 6-2
- #84 Ellyse Hamlin (DUKE) def. Julia Eshet (ORE) 6-2, 6-3
- Paiton Wagner (ORE) def. Hannah Zhao (DUKE) 6-4, 6-3
- #9 Kaitlyn McCarthy/Ellyse Hamlin (DUKE) def. #74 Shweta Sangwen/Julia Eshet (ORE) 6-4
- Alyssa Tobita/Rifanty Kahfiani (ORE) def. #6 Samantha Harris/Kelly Chen (DUKE) 6-2
- Meible Chi/Hannah Zhao (DUKE) def. Julia Lilien/Paiton Wagner (ORE) 6-4
Oregon 16-9; National ranking #33
Duke University Women's Tennis 24-3; National ranking #3
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (5,2,6,4,3)
Official: Mark Raynes