DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 4 Duke women’s tennis team shifts its attention to ACC play this week, opening the league campaign in Raleigh with a 2:00 p.m. Sunday match at N.C. State. The Blue Devils have won 31 of their last 32 ACC openers.
“First getting outside, that’s been the biggest thing this week,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We’ve been inside for the past month getting ready for National Team Indoors. This week off has allowed us to get outside and it’s just a little different style of tennis. The points are a little longer because of the elements. Getting used to being outside has been the biggest thing this week. On the court, it’s just cleaning stuff up. We played well, but we can definitely get better. Finishing balls at the net, working on mid-court balls, overheads, just little things that with our schedule we haven’t had a lot of time to work on. With the Hills Family Trip and Kickoff Weekend, we have been traveling a good amount and haven’t had as much time to work on those types of things. This week has allowed us to work on stuff with individuals and we changed our schedule in order to accommodate that. We really focused on individual needs.”
The Blue Devils and Wolfpack will meet for the 59th time Wednesday, with Duke leading the series 57-1. NC State’s lone win was a 5-2 triumph on April 14, 2007 in Raleigh. In the 58 meetings between the two, the Blue Devils have shut out the Wolfpack 25 times, including eight straight matches from February 13, 1990 through April 22, 1995. Last year in Raleigh, Duke picked up a 5-2 victory. Current Blue Devils Samantha Harris, Meible Chi and Kaitlyn McCarthy all recorded singles victories.
N.C. State enters Sunday’s match with a record of 4-4. Adriana Reami paces the Wolfpack with a 13-4 record and a 6-1 mark in dual matches, all from the second position. Reami is 3-1 against nationally ranked opponents. Anna Rogers has held down the No. 1 slot in the order and is 5-3 there and 8-7 overall. In doubles, Rogers and Claudia Wiktorin are 15-5 overall and 4-1 in dual matches, all played on No. 1. Reami and Amanda Rebol have manned position No. 2 and are 4-2 there, with one loss at No. 1. The Wolfpack are 3-1 at home so far, beating Appalachian State (6-1), Campbell (7-0) and East Carolina (5-2) and falling to Tennessee (4-3).
The Blue Devils have seen considerable success against conference opponents while competing under Ashworth, compiling a 175-38 record (.822 winning percentage) in ACC play. Ashworth-led Blue Devil squads own a winning record against all 15 league foes while five of those 15 have not registered a victory against Duke with Ashworth at the helm. Overall, Duke has recorded 15 undefeated seasons against ACC teams (1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2012). Duke is coming off winning a share of the conference title, as the Blue Devils finished 2017 with a 13-1 ACC mark.
“It’s something that it’s not just the upperclassmen, but the tradition of our program is built on ACC play” said Ashworth. “I think it trickles down from class to class and they do a really good job of understanding how important it is. Our national success stems from ACC success, especially now with how tough the conference is. I think they understand and really value these ACC matches. It comes from seniors, from past players that the importance trickles down. Every match is so valuable because you want to put yourself in the best position for the ACC Tournament with the possibility of three matches in three days or five matches in five days. You want to put yourself in the best position down the road and I think our girls understand that and understand the value of every time we play a conference match and the meaning that has.”
Duke heads into Wednesday’s match having won its last three ACC openers and 31 of the last 32. The Blue Devils had their streak of 28 straight league-opening snapped in 2014 with a 5-2 setback at Virginia. Ashworth is 19-1 as Duke’s head coach in ACC openers. The Blue Devils have begun the league campaign against N.C. State ten times and gone 10-0, including the 5-2 win in 2017.
“The biggest thing is the emotional component because of the familiarity,” Ashworth said. “Starting this week with NC State, we see their players in a regional tournament or in a fall tournament so we have to make sure we’re ready to go emotionally and physically with shot-making. But there’s no mystery with players. We just have to go out and execute like we know how. That’s the biggest thing with conference stuff because we know everyone so well and they know us so well.”
Duke has dominated on courts three, four and five as the Blue Devils are 17-2 at the three positions. Chi leads the way with a 7-0 record at No. 5. Kelly Chen and Ellyse Hamlin both have 5-1 records at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively. Adding in McCarthy’s 3-1 record at No. 2 and Harris’ 2-1 record at No. 1, Duke is 22-4 in the top five spots.
The Blue Devils will open the ACC season ranked No. 4 in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) ledger. Duke entered the top five this week for the first time since the 2014 season. Duke began the campaign at No. 9 and were within the top 10 to open the year for the 16th time since 2001. Five Blue Devils check in the ITA singles poll. Duke’s highest-ranked player is Harris at No. 9. Chen ranks No. 30 while McCarthy is No. 65. Also in the poll are Chi at No. 106 and Hamlin at No. 119. Duke also has two doubles teams ranked in the top five. McCarthy and Hamlin check in at No. 2, a position they’ve held since November, while Harris and Chen are No. 5.
The match will begin at 2:00 p.m., at the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center.