TULSA, Okla. - The ninth-ranked Duke women's tennis team dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to eighth-ranked California on Thursday afternoon in NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen action at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla.
The Blue Devils took a 1-0 lead after taking the doubles point, as the seventh-ranked Duke duo of sophomore Amanda Granson and junior Melissa Mang defeated the 12th-ranked Golden Bear pair of Susie Babos and Stephanie Kusano at the top position, 8-6, and the freshman tandem of Ellah Nze and Reka Zsilinszka posted an 8-6 triumph over the 54th-ranked Cal team of Bojana Bobusic and Cristina Visico at No. 3.
Singles action saw 92nd-ranked Bubosic get past junior Jessi Robinson, 6-1, 6-0, at No. 6 as Cal evened the score at 1-1, but Granson gave Duke a 2-1 advantage by defeating Kusano, 6-4, 7-5, at the No. 5 slot.
Fourth-ranked Marina Cossou then posted a 7-5, 7-6 (3) win over 21st-ranked Nze at the No. 2 position to knot the score at 2-2, but Duke again reclaimed the lead at 3-2 on 24th-ranked Zsilinszka's 6-1, 6-3 win over 35-ranked Visico at No. 3.
The Golden Bears countered at No. 4 as 40th-ranked Claire Ilcinkas got past Mang, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, to make it 3-3, as the match came down to the top singles flight match. Babos, ranked 20th in the nation, defeated 125th-ranked sophomore Tara Iyer, 6-3, 7-6 (4), to give Cal the narrow 4-3 win.
"Cal is good," said Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth. "It's the first time all year that we lost four singles matches against anybody. I think we were 16 or 17-0 when winning the doubles points. I knew that going into the singles matches. I think they just played better than us. I thought that with the momentum from winning the doubles point, that we could get off to a good start in singles but we didn't.
There's a good group of seniors on that Cal team; I think there are three seniors in their top six. I think Cal did a great job of putting the doubles point behind them. We didn't do a good job of taking care of opportunities. I thought we kind of sat back and hoped they would make an error instead of going after it and grabbing what was there in front of us."
The Blue Devils end the 2008 campaign with a record of 20-5, as four of those five losses came to teams in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, while Cal advances to the Elite Eight with a mark of 18-5.
Zsilinszka and Nze will kick off action in the NCAA Singles Championships on May 21, while the Duke duo of Granson and Mang will also remain in Tulsa for the NCAA Doubles Championships.
Complete Results - #8 California 4, #9 Duke 3
1. #7 Amanda Granson/Melissa Mang (D) def. #12 Susie Babos/Stephanie Kusano (C)- 8-6
2. Marina Cossou/Claire Ilcinkas (C) vs. Tara Iyer/Jessi Robinson (D)- DNF
3. Ellah Nze/Reka Zsilinszka (D) def. #54 Bojana Bobusic/Cristina Visico (C)- 8-6
1. #20 Susie Babos (C) def. #125 Tara Iyer (D)- 6-3, 7-6 (4)
2. #4 Marina Cossou (C) def. #21 Ellah Nze (D)- 7-5, 7-6 (3)
3. #24 Reka Zsilinszka (D) def. #25 Cristina Visico (C)- 6-1, 6-3
4. #40 Claire Ilcinkas (C) def. Melissa Mang (D)- 6-1, 4-6, 6-1
5. Amanda Granson (D) def. Stephanie Kusano (C)- 6-4, 7-5
6. #92 Bojana Bobusic (C) def. Jessi Robinson (D)- 6-1, 6-0
Order of Finish: Doubles- 1, 3; Singles- 6, 5, 2, 3, 4, 1