DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 4 Duke women’s tennis team dominated another ranked opponent, this time beating No. 24 Florida State 6-1 on Thursday afternoon in Ambler Tennis Stadium.
Duke improves to 15-1 on the season and is in first place with a 7-0 ACC record. Florida State drops to 11-7 overall and 3-5 in conference. The Blue Devils have now won nine matches in a row and 21 straight at home.
“It was a tough match, by far one of the toughest matches we’ve had this year,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “Florida State does a great job of coming after you and competing and playing relentless tennis.”
The doubles point was decided by the slimmest of margins. Florida State gained an early advantage when Gabriella Castaneda and Petra Hule won the first four games against Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao while the other two courts were mostly even. However, Chi and Zhao battled back to win five of the next six games to tie the score at five games apiece. All three courts ended up deadlocked at 5-5. Duke struck first when Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin won 7-5 against Julia Mikulski and Andrea Garcia. But the Seminoles bounced back as Castaneda and Hule regained the momentum against Chi and Zhao and won 7-5. It all came down to a tiebreaker on court one between Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen and Carla Touly and Ariana Rahmanparast. The pairs continued to play neck and neck as they were tied at seven in the tiebreaker. Finally, Harris and Chen won two straight points to clinch the doubles point, finishing with a 7-6 (9-7) win.
“Obviously the doubles were a battle and for us to come out and win that battle was a great thing for us and carried momentum into the singles,” Ashworth said. “There was a time in that doubles, I didn’t think we were playing that great, but we competed really well. We got off to a slow start on court three, but we kept them on the court which enabled our other teams to compete and get back into the matches as well. We didn’t lose at three quickly, which was a really big thing and didn’t give Florida State any momentum in the other two doubles matches. It let us get some confidence and feel more comfortable"
After the close doubles matches, Duke did not leave any doubt in the singles matches. Hamlin won her first set 6-0, while Harris, Chen and Chi did not drop more than three games in their first set.
Chi was the first Blue Devil to win her match, cruising to a 6-2, 6-1 win over 105th-ranked Hule. Chi has now won 20 straight matches and is 16-0 in dual matches. Chen was right behind her, beating Castaneda 6-3, 6-1 for her team-leading 27th win. Picking up the clinching point was Harris, as the senior beat 30th-ranked Touly 6-3, 6-2. Harris now has 35 career ACC wins, putting her one behind Rachel Kahan for second all-time at Duke.
“In singles, it was kind of a weird singles match because three matches were really quick and we dominated those and then you had some close ones” commented Ashworth. “I was happy how we played singles and happy with how we competed against a really good, a really tough team.”
After taking the first set 6-0, Hamlin needed to battle in the second set with Rahmanparast. The pair needed a tiebreaker to separate them, with Hamlin looking to finish the match and Rahmanparast trying to force a third set. Ultimately, it was Hamlin who won the tiebreaker to finish off a 6-0, 7-6 (7-4) win.
Zhao trailed Andrea Garcia after the first set, but was able to recover to win the second set, forcing a third set tiebreaker to decide the winner. After trailing early in the tiebreaker, Zhao battled back to within 8-7, but Garcia took two of the next three points to win, earning a 6-3, 3-6, 1-0 (10-8) victory.
Although the team match had been decided, McCarthy and Nandini Das did not give each other an inch as it took a third set tiebreaker to separate them. McCarthy had taken the first set before Das won the second. In the tiebreaker, McCarthy eventually pulled away and took the match 7-5, 2-6, 1-0 (10-7).
“We have to value every point we play,” added Ashworth. “It doesn’t matter if we’re up 4-0, those matches need to be treated the same and I thought we handled ourselves very well. Hannah did a great job of fighting back in that tiebreaker, she was down. Then Kaitlyn coming through and winning that tiebreaker, those tiebreakers are tough. They can go either way. We’ve done a good job all year of valuing every point, whether we’re up 4-0, 6-0 or it’s a 3-3 point. That’s a tribute to our girls.”
Duke will have one more home match this weekend, hosting Louisville on Saturday. First serve is scheduled for 12:00 noon in Ambler Tennis Stadium.
“We have a good Louisville team on Saturday and we have to be resilient and play a good match” Ashworth finished. “If we want to advance in the ACC or NCAA Tournament later in the year, we’re going to have to play back to back matches and be even better in the second match. We’ll have an easy practice tomorrow and then be ready to go on Saturday.”