DURHAM, N.C. – With the opportunity to claim a share of the ACC women’s tennis regular season title, the No. 15 Duke squad stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat No. 6 Georgia Tech 4-3 on Sunday at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. The Blue Devils trailed 2-0 and 3-1 before capturing the last three singles matches to force a three-way tie atop the league standings with the Yellow Jackets, Duke and North Carolina all finishing 13-1 in league action.
The Blue Devils dropped four of the six first sets in singles after Georgia Tech claimed the doubles point, but rallied. Down 3-1, sophomore Ellyse Hamlin won in straight sets on court six to draw the Blue Devils within a point. Classmate Kaitlyn McCarthy then came back after dropping her opening set for a three-set win on court four that pushed all the attention to court three, where senior Chalena Scholl was playing her final regular season home match. Scholl fought back for a 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-2 win that clinched the match for Duke.
“Today was definitely a day where we all wanted to come out on top,” Scholl said. “We all did a really great job of fighting and not giving up, especially in a match like this where we’ve lost the last couple to Georgia Tech by 4-3 scores. Being able to finally come out on top is huge.”
The regular season title is Duke’s 20th in program history and its first since 2012. The Blue Devils won 12 consecutive regular season championships from 1988-1999 before placing second in 2000. Duke also finished the home campaign with a 12-0 ledger, the fifth most home wins in a year in program history. Duke has not lost a regular season home match since falling 4-3 to Michigan on April 6, 2016.
“This was a great weekend,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “It started with a good match Friday. We knew today would be a battle. Win or lose the doubles, we knew it would be a fight. The last four matches with Georgia Tech have all been 4-3 and come down to the last match. We’ve played a lot of three-set matches with a lot of 7-6 or 7-5 sets against them. We knew coming in to today it would be a great match.”
Individually, McCarthy’s victory against Nami Otsuka upped her league record to 14-0. She is the first Blue Devil to ever finish 14-0 in an ACC campaign. She is the 26th Duke player to go unbeaten with at least seven wins versus league competition.
The match got off to a thrilling start with back-and-forth doubles action. The Yellow Jackets prevailed in the end, breaking Duke’s serves on courts one and two to emerge with matching 6-4 victories.
Duke’s top tandem of freshman Meible Chi and McCarthy trailed 2-0 early before getting back on track to tie the match at 2-2. They traded service games with Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones to remain even at 3-3. Georgia Tech got the break at 4-3 to go ahead 5-3 and potentially serve out the match. The Blue Devils, refusing to give in, broke back to make it 5-4, but the Yellow Jackets responded in the same fashion to take the match 6-4.
Senior Alyssa Smith and Scholl, up against 21st-ranked Rasheeda McAdoo and Johnnise Renaud, trailed 5-2 before rallying back to within one at 5-4 with the serve to tie the match. A close call went Georgia Tech’s way to put the Yellow Jacket pair ahead of the 80th-ranked Blue Devils and clinch the doubles point.
“We didn’t play great doubles,” Ashworth added. “I thought we played a little tight and nervous. But the way we went through singles, we had belief everywhere. It was great to see. We got down some matches and kept believing.”
Georgia Tech quickly pushed the lead to 2-0 as Jones downed Smith 6-2, 6-0 on court five.
It was then that the Blue Devils mounted the comeback. Harris picked up the first point with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against No. 47 McAdoo on court one. Harris jumped ahead 5-1 in the opening set before McAdoo narrowed the gap to 5-3. Harris was able to hold on for the final game. The second set was even at each of the first four points before No. 85 Harris held and broke to end the match.
“Sam winning that gave us some obvious momentum, but you could feel it on the other courts,” Ashworth said. “People picked up their energy and excitement levels. Sam is so tough. She gives it everything she possibly can. She has had chances and hopefully she can build on this weekend’s success.”
The Yellow Jackets tallied their final point on court two to take a 3-1 lead with No. 83 Renaud slipping past No.36 Chi 6-3, 7-6 (5). With the first set even at 3-3, Renaud took the final three games. The second had Chi hop out to a 3-0 advantage before Renaud won three straight to even the set at 3-3. From there, the two exchanged service games and went to the tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Chi was able to capture the first five points before Renaud won seven straight to win the match.
While Chi was finishing her match, Scholl on court three and McCarthy on court four had won second sets to force deciding third sets.
Duke captured its second point to trail 3-2 on court six with Hamlin topping Luca Fabian 7-6 (3), 6-1. Hamlin faced an early 4-1 hole in the first set before cutting the deficit to 4-3. Fabian got a game to put her ahead 5-3, but Hamlin won two straight to knot the set at 5-5. The two each won a game to force a tiebreaker. Hamlin took a seemingly commanding 5-0 lead, but Fabian fought back to trail by three at 6-3. Hamlin tallied the final point before cruising through the second set.
McCarthy drew the match even by winning 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 against Otsuka on court four. McCarthy trailed 5-3 in the first set but won consecutive games to knot it at 5-5. Otsuka answered with the final two games to take the set. McCarthy, ranked No. 113 this week, opened the second set with a 3-1 lead. McCarthy had a 4-2 advantage and took the final two games to force a third set. In it, she got ahead 2-0 but Otsuka answered to make it a 2-2 set. McCarthy then went on a hold, break and hold run to go ahead 5-2 and hold on for the match.
“I’m really proud of Kaitlyn,” Scholl said. “I’m really happy with everything she’s done. The way she has battled on the court has been amazing.”
Scholl proved to be the anchor again for Duke, coming back to clinch the match on court three. She defeated No. 81 Hourigan 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-2. Just like McCarthy, No. 56 Scholl was behind 5-3 in the first set before evening it. The two went to the tiebreaker with Hourigan jumping out to a 4-2 lead and then stuffing away the last three points. Scholl answered in the second set by leading 3-1. With the set at a 4-2 Scholl advantage, she won the last two games. Scholl kept the gas pedal down in the third set, taking leads of 2-0 and 4-1 before finishing out.
“We have this belief that we’re never out of it,” Ashworth noted. “That’s kind of how we’ve played all year. We’ve given ourselves chances, even in the matches we’ve lost. We fight, battle and make people beat us. I don’t think there was any doubt on any of our courts at 3-1 down that we were going to lose 4-1. We didn’t have that one bit. Whatever it takes to win, we’re going to do whatever we possibly can.”
Duke, which is the No. 2 seed for the ACC Championship, will play at 4 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals. The Blue Devils will play the winner of the No. 7 seed Clemson versus No. 10 seed Notre Dame/No. 15 seed Pittsburgh at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College.
No. 15 Duke 4, No. 6 Georgia Tech 3
April 23, 2017 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. Paige Hourigan/Kenya Jones (GT) def. Meible Chi/Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) 6-4
2. Johnnise Renaud/Rasheeda McAdoo (GT) def. Chalena Scholl/Alyssa Smith (DU) 6-4
3. Samantha Harris/Ellyse Hamlin (DU) vs. Nami Otsuka/Luca Fabian (GT) 5-4, unfinished
1. #85 Samantha Harris (DU) def. #47 Rasheeda McAdoo (GT) 6-3, 6-4
2. #83 Johnnise Renaud (GT) def. #36 Meible Chi (DU) 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
3. #56 Chalena Scholl (DU) def. #81 Paige Hourigan (GT) 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 6-2
4. #113 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) def. Nami Otsuka (GT) 5-7, 6-2, 6-3
5. Kenya Jones (GT) def. Alyssa Smith (DU) 6-2, 6-0
6. Ellyse Hamlin (DU) def. Luca Fabian (GT) 7-6 (7-3), 6-1
Georgia Tech 23-3, 13-1 ACC; National ranking #6
Duke 19-4, 13-1 ACC; National ranking #15
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (5,1,2,6,4,3)
Official: Reliford Sanders T-3:12 A-301