RALEIGH, N.C. – Coming off its first loss of the season, the No. 4 Duke women’s tennis team opened ACC play with a resounding 6-1 win over N.C. State at J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon.
Duke moves to 7-1 overall on the season and 1-0 in ACC play while N.C. State slips to 4-5 and 0-1. Duke has now won four straight ACC openers and 32 of the last 33. Head coach Jamie Ashworth is 20-1 in conference openers, including 11-0 against the Wolfpack.
“It was a good win for us,” said Ashworth. “It was the first competitive matches outside in a month and it’s good to get that under our belt. Our doubles were a bit cleaner than last week, a bit more aggressive. We were willing to take chances with doubles and it payed off. The good week of practice we had paying off as well was really good to see.”
Duke made a switch in its doubles line-up for the first time this season and the move paid immediate dividends. Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao stayed in their No. 3 position and were the first to finish their doubles match, beating Taylor Bridges and Taylor Stenta 6-2. The ITA’s No. 5 pairing of Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen moved from the No. 1 position for the No. 2 position for the first time this season, and they were able to capitalize by beating Adriana Reami and Amanda Rebol 6-2.
“It worked well,” Ashworth said of the lineup change. “We aren’t a team that needs a set lineup. We want to give people opportunities in different spots and they have deserved to play in different spots. It doesn’t faze our team moving down or up positions, they play their opponents to the best of their ability. It’s a very mature team, mentally, and that’s something that will never be an issue.”
Duke also made changes in its singles lineup. Chen swapped spots with Kaitlyn McCarthy, with Chen moving to No. 2 and McCarthy going to No. 3 while Chi and Ellyse Hamlin also flipped between No. 4 and No. 5. With the new lineup, all six Duke players took the first set from their N.C. State opponents.
It was Zhao who was the first Blue Devil to win her singles match. She cruised to a 6-0, 6-2 win over Rebol.
Hamlin and Chi quickly followed to clinch the match. Hamlin beat Helene Grimm 6-1, 6-3 and then Chi’s 6-1, 6-3 win over Bridges ensured a Duke victory.
“Our singles play was good,” added Ashworth. “Playing outside takes a little bit more patience. The points are longer, which we have to keep getting used too. You get more balls back playing outside, so you have to play points to the very end and value every point we play. All in all, it was a good effort to come over here and win 6-1 and get first ACC win.”
Chen extended Duke’s lead when she defeated Reami 6-3, 7-5. Harris took Duke’s sixth and final point with a three-set 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win over Anna Rogers.
N.C. State’s only point of the day came when Claudia Wiktorin beat McCarthy 6-7, 6-4, 1-0 in a third-set tiebreaker.
“The ACC is so tough, to win a match here will pay dividends down the road,” Ashworth finished. “It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, getting that win sets the tone for the rest of the season.”
Duke will return home for its first home match since Jan. 28 when the Blue Devils host Dartmouth in Feb. 25 in Ambler Tennis Stadium.