DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 4 Duke women’s tennis team will hit the road for the last time during the ACC regular season as the Blue Devils travel to No. 28 Syracuse and Pittsburgh for weekend matches.
“We’d won so many matches so easily recently, that I think we’d let some little things slide in either our practice or preparation,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “Losing the match to Georgia Tech exposed a couple of things that we really needed to work on and so we’ve had not the easiest of practices this week. We’ve been out there early in the morning, just trying to take care of some things that were exposed. It was a good thing for us, it shed some light on some things. I think we’re definitely over it and ready to have a good weekend.”
Syracuse Series History
Duke has dominated the Orange, coming away with wins in all seven matchups. The two teams have met four times since Syracuse joined the ACC, twice each in Durham and in Syracuse. Last season, the Blue Devils traveled to Syracuse and came away with a 5-2 win. Syracuse came closest to a win over Duke in 2015 when the final score finished at 4-3. Ellyse Hamlin is 2-0 in her singles career against the Orange while Meible Chi and Kaitlyn McCarthy are both 1-0.
No. 28 Syracuse comes into the weekend with a 14-5 overall record and a 6-5 conference mark. The Orange have been dominant at home, winning nine of its ten matches there so far this season. Syracuse has lost its last two though, falling at Florida State and Miami. Gabriela Knutson is Syracuse’s highest-ranked singles player, checking in at No. 4. She is 26-5 overall on the season and is 15-2 in dual matches, all at the top position. Knutson has combined with Miranda Ramirez to form the 13th-ranked doubles tandem. The pair have an 18-8 record this season and have played on court one all season. Knutson and Ramirez squared off against Hamlin and McCarthy in this fall’s Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championship semifinals, which Hamlin and McCarthy were victorious in.
“It’s been a tough place to play historically for a lot of the ACC teams,” said Ashworth. “The courts are very fast and it’s a different setup, playing on top of each other. But I think we’ve had a couple of good days of practice and we know what to expect. We have very high expectations of Syracuse and how they’re going to play. There should be no surprises for us. We know they’re going to play a very good match and a very emotional match so we just need to be at a high level ourselves in all aspects.”
Pittsburgh Series History
Duke has been dominant against Pittsburgh, with a 4-0 record, all of which have come since the Panthers entered the ACC. The Blue Devils have never allowed more than two Pittsburgh points in a match and won at home 7-0 last year. On the road, Duke has taken 5-2 and 6-1 wins in 2016 and 2014 respectively. Samantha Harris is 3-0 in her singles career against Pittsburgh while Hamlin is 2-0.
The Panthers are still searching for their first conference win, carrying an 0-10 ACC mark and a 6-11 overall record into the weekend. Claudia Bartolome leads Pittsburgh with a 17-8 overall record and is the only Panther with a winning conference ledger (5-3). She is 4-1 on court three and 7-2 on court four in dual matches. Pittsburgh’s duo of Camila Moreno and Callie Frey are ranked 87th in the ITA doubles poll and have a 10-7 record.
Race for First Place
With four games remaining in the regular season, Duke is tied with North Carolina for the top spot in the ACC with identical 9-1 records. Georgia Tech is only one spot behind with an 8-2 record and has beaten both Duke and North Carolina. The two Tobacco Road rivals will meet next weekend in Ambler Tennis Stadium. Duke, North Carolina and Georgia Tech all tied for the regular season crown in 2017 with 13-1 records.
“This weekend is too tough to look ahead,” Ashworth said. “We’re playing a team in Syracuse that just beat Georgia Tech two weeks ago. All our focus needs to be there. With our group, I’m not worried about that at all. They’re so day-to-day with what we do so I’m not worried about it.”
ACC Career Wins Leader
Harris has racked up 37 ACC wins in her Blue Devil career, including eight so far this season. The Melbourne, Australia native needs one more win to tie Reka Zsilinszka for the Duke record and two more to become the all-time leader.
“She’s been a great player for us and a very consistent player for us,” commented Ashworth. “That’s the one thing you know you’re going to get out of Sam is her level of consistency and her level of effort. You know she’s going to bring it every time she plays. Win or lose, she’s going to give you that maximum effort. Whether she feels 100% or not, she’s been a model of consistency over the years.”
Kelly Chen is in the midst of one of the best rookie campaigns in Duke history. Chen broke the 30-win barrier with a pair of wins last weekend, becoming the 61st Blue Devil to do so in a single season. She is 10th all-time in wins by a Duke rookie and her 10 ACC wins are tied for fourth. Chen is currently on a 10-match winning streak which is also the 10th longest by a Duke freshman. Finally, the Cerritos, Calif., native has been named ACC Rookie of the Week a conference-best five times this season.
No Sophomore Slump for Chi
After racking up 33 wins in her freshman campaign, Chi has come back just as strong in her sophomore season. Chi has a 28-3 record this season and is a perfect 19-0 in dual matches. The Weston, Fla., product is on a 23 match winning streak going into the weekend. With two more wins, Chi will become the 20th player in Duke history with multiple seasons of 30+ wins.
Final Road Trip
Duke is 5-1 on the road this season, the only loss coming at Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils have a chance to tie last season’s 7-1 road record with a pair of wins this weekend.
“Our players have been great on the road,” added Ashworth. “I think we’ve done a good job of preparing and doing a good job of being ready to play. No matter hwere it’s been, home, away or neutral, we’ve been up for that kind of challenge. A lot of times, we’ve been the highest ranked team that our opponent has faced so we’ve had to rise to that challenge because we know that we’re going to get the best out of whoever we play. We’ve handled that really well. Obviously we love to play at home and we’re looking forward to get through this weekend and play at home again next week.”
Duke checks in at No. 4 in the ITA team rankings. Harris continues to lead the way in the singles rankings as she is No. 5. Chen is ranked at No. 28 and Chi is No. 78. Rounding out the five Blue Devils in the poll are Kaitlyn McCarthy at No. 91 and Hamlin at No. 111. Duke continues to have two doubles pairs in the top 10. Harris and Chen are No. 6 and McCarthy and Hamlin are No. 8.