DURHAM, N.C. – With a come from behind 4-2 victory, the No. 9 Duke women’s tennis team beat Washington on Sunday afternoon in Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center to advance to the ITA Team Indoor National Championships.
“It was a heck of a match,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “It was a lot of emotions throughout the match. There’s a lot of ups and downs in a match like that. You lose a couple of deuce points or win a couple and it completely changes the match. I thought we competed really well. We could definitely execute better but we competed very well.”
Duke moves to 3-0 on the young season while Washington falls to 2-2.
Duke dropped a hard-fought doubles point for the first time this season. The second-ranked duo of juniors Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin did their part by beating Washington’s Kenadi Hance and Lana Slavica 6-2. But both pairings of Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen as well as Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao dropped tough 7-5 decisions to give Washington the 1-0 advantage heading into singles.
Trailing for the first time all season, Hamlin wasted little time drawing the Blue Devils level, beating Alexis Prokopuik 6-1, 6-3.
“Especially after losing the doubles point, getting a point on the board quickly is always good for team morale,” Hamlin said. “When you look at it, the doubles point is so crucial that just getting on the scoreboard helps everyone else know that we’re here, let’s do this.”
Her doubles partner McCarthy soon followed suit with a 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 win over Miki Kobayashi to give Duke its first lead of the day.
The Blue Devils drew to within a point of victory after Chen beat Kenadi Hance 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4. It looked like Duke might advance when Zhao took the lead in a third set tiebreaker, but Katarina Kopcalic battled back to win 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (8-6) and keep the Huskies slim hopes alive.
Duke closed the door soon after though, as Chi kept her undefeated singles start to the spring intact with a 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 win. It’s the second year in a row that the Weston, Fla., native has won the championship clinching point at the ITA Kickoff Weekend.
“We needed to have that emotion,” added Ashworth. “If we can have that same kind of emotion and compete as hard as we did and then execute a little bit better, we’re going to be a heck of a team. For our third match and only two weeks in, we’re playing better now than we did a week ago and we’ll be better next week.”
Duke advances to the Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisc., on Feb. 9-12. First though, the Blue Devils travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a dual match with Michigan on Feb. 3.
“It was great to see the competitiveness of my teammates and it just gets me excited for what’s to come,” said Hamlin. “Qualifying for indoors is a huge thing, we’re excited to go back to Wisconsin. We’ve set some pretty big goals for this year and I think we’re all still just focused on every single match. Be focused and disciplined and take baby steps and then when we get to Wisconsin, we’ll be able to take it.”