NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The No. 10 Duke women’s tennis team took the first point off No. 6 Georgia and pushed three singles matches to third sets, but fell 4-1 to the Bulldogs on Friday in the opening round of the ITA Team Indoor Championship. The loss was the first of the year for the Blue Devils, who dip to 4-1 overall while Georgia remains unbeaten at 4-0.
The Bulldogs have won the last two matches against the Blue Devils after Duke won five of six from 1996 to 2012. The loss also marks the third straight year Duke has fallen in the opening round of the ITA Team Indoor Championship after winning the championship in 2014.
“That was a disappointing match to lose, but a good lesson,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “We know we can play with anybody in the country if we go out and play hard and smart. As I told the team, we don’t even have to play great, we just play within ourselves. We gave ourselves some chances all night long and that could have been a 4-3 win for us. It’s definitely disappointing, but we have to take some positives from it.”
On Friday, Duke mounted a rally in doubles to take an early 1-0 lead, earning the first point an opponent had tallied against Georgia this season. The Bulldogs had been 6-0 in dual match doubles play until falling in two of three to the Blue Devils on Friday.
Georgia secured the first decision as Mariana Gould and Marta Gonzalez defeated Samantha Harris and Rebecca Smaller 6-4 on court three. Duke fell behind 2-0 and 4-2 before winning consecutive games to knot the set at 4-4. Georgia used a break and hold to end the match. Harris and Smaller fall to 1-3, all in dual matches.
The comeback to the doubles point started on court two, where Alyssa Smith and Chalena Scholl rallied to claim a 6-3 victory against Kennedy Shaffer and Caroline Brinson. The Blue Devils were broken to fall behind 2-1 and trailed 3-2 before running off the last four games of the match. Smith and Scholl are now 5-3 overall and 3-2 in dual action.
The Blue Devils clinched the point in the top position as No. 25 Kaitlyn McCarthy and Meible Chi came from behind for a 7-6 (2) win over Eleni Christofi and Ellen Perez. After a 2-2 tie, Christofi and Perez broke and held to take a 4-2 lead. The Blue Devils answered with three straight to go up 5-4. Georgia held and broke to serve for the match at 6-5, but McCarthy and Chi broke back to send the match to the tiebreaker. The Duke duo raced out to a 4-0 lead and led 5-1 before closing out the point. McCarthy and Chi improve to 4-0, all on court one in dual matches.
“I thought we played really good doubles,” Ashworth said. “That was the best doubles, by far, we’ve played all year. Even in the match we lost, we gave ourselves an opportunity. On courts one and two we played really clean with a lot of energy. That was playing smart doubles. I was really happy with that. I thought we could take some of that momentum into singles, but Georgia, especially at the top of its lineup, is so good.”
Once in singles, Georgia evened the match at 1-1 overall with Perez’s 6-2, 6-2 win against Harris on court one. Harris drops to 4-4 overall and 2-3 against dual competition.
The Bulldogs took their first lead at 2-1 from court six with Gould’s 6-1, 6-3 victory versus Smaller. After breezing through the first set, Gould was tied 2-2 in the second set before a hold and break gave her a 4-2 lead. Smaller broke back to make it a 4-3 set, but Gould broke and held to end the match. Smaller slips to 4-5 overall and 3-1 in dual matches.
Georgia pushed its lead to 3-1 via a Brinson 7-5, 6-4 triumph over McCarthy on court four. Brinson trailed 4-1 in both sets before forcing 4-4 ties in both. In the first set, Brinson took a 5-4 lead only to be broken by McCarthy to knot the set at 5-5. From there, Brinson, ranked No. 34 this week, held and broke to end the set. In the second set, No. 125 McCarthy was broken at 4-4 and Brinson held to close the match. McCarthy dips to 8-5 and 3-1 in duals.
It was a three-set battle on court two that clinched the match for the Bulldogs with No. 18 Christofi holding off No. 21 Chi 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. In the opening set, Christofi led 3-0 before Chi marched off five straight wins to take a 5-3 lead and hold off Christofi. The second set had Christofi get out a 3-0 lead and breeze to the third set. Chi turned a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead in the deciding set, just to have Christofi take four straight games and go up 5-3. Chi broke to trail by just one at 5-4, but Christofi broke back to end the match. Chi suffers her first dual match loss to go to 4-1 and 19-7 overall.
With the match played to clinch, the other two singles competitions were halted in their third sets. No. 39 Shaffer and No. 37 Scholl were halted with Scholl ahead 5-7, 6-4, 5-3 on court three. In the fifth position, Gonzalez led Smith 7-5, 5-7, 2-0.
“Alyssa did a great job of fighting back,” Ashworth added. “Chalena did a great job of fighting back. As a team we have to learn from those two. They’re both seniors who kept grinding and fighting. They did a great job.”
Duke will face No. 15 Texas A&M in the consolation bracket Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
“We play Texas A&M tomorrow and they’re a good SEC team,” Ashworth added. “That’s the good of this tournament; whether you win or lose you have to be ready to go. We have to take advantage of that opportunity tomorrow.”
No. 6 Georgia 4, No. 10 Duke 1
February 10, 2017 at New Haven, Conn. (Tennis and Fitness Center of Rocky Hill)
1. #25 Meible Chi/Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) def. Ellen Perez/Eleni Christofi (UGA) 7-6 (7-2)
2. Chalena Scholl/Alyssa Smith (DU) def. Kennedy Shaffer/Caroline Brinson (UGA) 6-3
3. Mariana Gould/Marta Gonzalez (UGA) def. Samantha Harris/Rebecca Smaller (DU) 6-4
1. Ellen Perez (UGA) def. Samantha Harris (DU) 6-2, 6-2
2. #18 Eleni Christofi (UGA) def. #21 Meible Chi (DU) 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
3. #39 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) vs. #37 Chalena Scholl (DU) 7-5, 4-6, 3-5, unfinished
4. #34 Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. #125 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) 7-5, 6-4
5. Marta Gonzalez (UGA) vs. Alyssa Smith (DU) 7-5, 5-7, 2-0, unfinished
6. Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Rebecca Smaller (DU) 6-1, 6-3
Duke 4-1; National ranking #10
Georgia 4-0; National ranking #6
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (1,6,4,2)