DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 17 Duke women’s tennis team continued to plow through the ACC season Saturday with a 7-0 victory against Pittsburgh. The Blue Devils improve to 6-0 in league matches, 8-0 at home and 12-3 overall.
Duke captured all six first sets in singles, won five singles contests in straight sets and received the clinching match from senior Chalena Scholl on court two.
“The biggest thing we talked about before the match was just getting better,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “Every opportunity we have on the court is an opportunity to get better. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is or who is on the court for us. We just have to value each opportunity. We need to play with pride, character and fight. It doesn’t matter what number you’re playing or who you’re playing. I thought we did a good job with all of that today.”
The Blue Devils had the early advantage in doubles as sophomore Kaitlyn McCarthy and junior Rebecca Smaller cruised to a 6-1 victory over Pittsburgh’s Gabriela Rezende and Natsumi Okamoto on court three.
The No. 1 matchup saw Duke’s tandem of seniors Alyssa Smith and Scholl trail the Panthers’ Amber Washington and Callie Frey early, 3-0. Smith and Scholl evened the match at 3-3 and 4-4 before claiming the final two games for a 6-4 win. The duo improved to 11-5 overall and 4-0 in conference action while clinching the point for the Blue Devils.
“Coming into a weekend where we play back-to-back matches on Saturday and Sunday, it’s really important to take care of what you can, as efficiently as possible,” McCarthy said. “Winning 7-0 gives us confidence moving into tomorrow and keeps us fresh and ready to go.”
Duke quickly pushed the lead to 2-0 as Harris got on a roll late against Washington to win 6-3, 6-0 on court one. Harris led 4-3 in the opening set before running off the final eight games for the match. Harris improves to 10-8 overall and 4-2 against league foes.
The Blue Devils secured the third point on court three, where McCarthy downed Rezende 6-0, 6-2. McCarthy did not drop a game until a 1-1 tie in the second set. She rebounded with four more wins to go up 5-1 before closing out the match. McCarthy bumps her record to 17-5 and remains unbeaten in ACC matches at 6-0.
“My attitude this year has been to take care of what I can take care of and to do my job on the court,” McCarthy added. “I have been really focusing on my matches and playing as solid as I can. Mentally I have gotten so much stronger [from my freshman year]. On court, I just feel a lot more confident in my game this year than I did last year. It has been an unbelievable improvement since last year. I couldn’t be happier with it. I really feel like I’m playing well right now. I’m hoping that continues throughout the postseason.”
“Kaitlyn is moving really well,” Ashworth said. “When she’s aggressive, she’s tough to beat. That’s something we keep reminding her of. She has done everything we’ve asked her to do and just keeps getting better with it. As we get deeper and deeper into our season, she just needs to keep doing that and keep executing. Today she did a good job of turning defense into offense. She did a really good job creating offensive opportunities after defensive ones.”
Scholl clinched the match for Duke with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Blakeley on court two. Scholl turned a 1-1 tie in the first set into a 4-1 advantage. Blakeley got it down to a 4-3 deficit, but Scholl bounced back with the last two games. In the second set, Scholl jumped out to a 3-0 advantage. Blakeley trailed by one twice at 3-2 and 4-3, but Scholl took the last two for the match. Scholl is now 21-5 overall and 6-0 in league competition.
Duke picked up its fifth point from Hamlin on court five, where she downed Lucas 6-3, 6-4. In the opening set, Hamlin led 2-0 and 3-1 before Lucas answered to even the set at 3-3. From there, Hamlin took the last three. The second set had Hamlin turn a 2-2 draw into a 4-2 advantage, but Lucas responded again and evened the action at 4-4. Hamlin answered with the final two games for the match. Hamlin lifts her record to 8-3 and 5-0 in ACC action.
Smaller pushed past Okamoto on court six by a 6-3, 7-6 (4) score to give Duke a 6-0 advantage. Smaller trailed 2-0 in the first set and answered with three straight wins for a 3-2 lead. Okamoto evened the set at 3-3, but Smaller answered with the last three games. In the second set, Smaller converted a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 advantage. Okamoto trailed by one at 4-3 and 5-4 before winning two straight to go up 6-5. Smaller answered with a break on Okamoto to force a tiebreaker. With the tiebreaker even at 4-4, Smaller ran off the last three points for the victory. Smaller is now 5-9 overall and 1-1 versus league foes.
The Blue Devils tallied a seventh point on court four with Smith topping Frey 6-0, 6-7 (5), 1-0 (6). Smith breezed through the first set, but the second set was tied at 2-2 before Smith took a 4-2 lead. Frey got it to a one-game deficit at 4-3 and 5-4 and pulled even at 5-5. Smith went up 6-5, but Frey forced the tiebreaker. Once in the tiebreaker, Frey led 2-0 before Smith ripped off four consecutive points to take a 4-2 lead. Frey had the answer again, knotting the tiebreaker at 4-4. Smith led 5-4, but Frey won the last three points to force a first-to-10 tiebreaker of a third set. Smith came out in force, taking a 5-0 lead. Frey cut it to 5-4 before Smith captured five of the last seven points. Smith evens her overall mark at 13-13 and is now 5-1 in league matches.
The Blue Devils return to action Sunday with a home match against Clemson. First serve is set for 12 noon.
“We want to keep getting better and putting ourselves in pressure situations,” Ashworth said. “Hopefully when we need to be at our best, we will be. But that comes with working hard at every opportunity. I’m proud of our team.”
No. 17 Duke 7 Pittsburgh 0
Durham, N.C. (Ambler Tennis Stadium)
1. #49 Samantha Harris (DU) def. Amber Washington (UP) 6-3, 6-0
2. #52 Chalena Scholl (DU) def. Audrey Ann Blakely (UP) 6-3, 6-3
3. #76 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) def. Gabriela Rezende (UP) 6-0, 6-2
4. Alyssa Smith (DU) def. Callie Frey (UP) 6-0, 6-7 (5-7), 1-0 (10-6)
5. Ellyse Hamlin (DU) def. Clara Lucas (UP) 6-3, 6-4
6. Rebecca Smaller (DU) def. Natsumi Okamoto (UP) 6-3, 7-6 (7-4)
1. Chalena Scholl/Alyssa Smith (DU) def. Callie Frey/Amber Washington (UP) 6-4
2. Ellyse Hamlin/Samantha Harris (DU) vs. Audrey Ann Blakely/Clara Lucas (UP) 4-4, unfinished
3. Kaitlyn McCarthy/Rebecca Smaller (DU) def. Natsumi Okamoto/Gabriela Rezende (UP) 6-1
Pittsburgh 3-9, 0-8 ACC
Duke 12-3, 6-0 ACC; National ranking #17
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (1,3,2,5,6,4)
Official: Gerard Baisch T-2:28 A-104