DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 4 Duke women’s tennis team routed Virginia Tech 7-0 on Sunday afternoon in Ambler Tennis Stadium, clinching the ACC regular season championship as well as the top seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.
Duke finishes the regular season with a 21-2 record and a 13-1 conference record. It is the second consecutive season that the Blue Devils have won at least a share of the ACC title as well as finishing the regular season with an undefeated home record. Virginia Tech closes out its regular season at 12-11 overall and 3-11 in conference.
“I’m so proud of our girls for sticking with everything for four months,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “It’s been a long season, a great way to end it today with a convincing win over Virginia Tech. For our girls to know, that over that time period, they were the best team in the conference, is a great thing for us. I couldn’t be prouder of them and the effort they put in day in and day out.”
“It feels so good to win the ACC here at home,” said Harris. “It was Senior Day today. It’s the last go around. It was exciting to win the regular season and now we’ll put our focus towards the tournament and then NCAA’s. We’ve got a lot coming up still, but it feels so good.”
After the ceremony, Duke could not have started its day on the courts any better as Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin dominated Caroline Daxhelet and Natalie Novotna 6-0 on court one. After that, it got a little tougher as Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao trailed Sarah Baron and Katherine Butler 4-0 while Harris and Kelly Chen could not get more than a game of separation against Nika Kozar and Nina Sorkin. Chi and Zhao fought back to take a 5-4 lead as did Harris and Chen. Each time though, Virginia Tech staved off the match point. Finally, Harris and Chen closed out Kozar and Sorkin 7-5 to give Duke a 1-0 lead.
Fresh off her win to clinch Duke’s 5-2 win over No. 1 North Carolina on Friday, Zhao was dominant in her singles match on Sunday. The freshman from San Diego, Calif., did not drop a single game as she beat Disbergen 6-0, 6-0.
Finishing nearly as quickly was Hamlin on court five. Hamlin dominated her first set, winning the first five games. After dropping the first game of the second, she won four straight to cruise to a 6-1, 6-2 win over Sorkin.
McCarthy and Harris both finished their matches in rapid succession. First, McCarthy dropped Kozar 6-2, 6-4 on court three and seconds later, Harris finished up a 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 63 Novotna. Harris finishes her career with a Duke record 40 ACC regular season wins.
“Sam’s been tremendous, on and off the court, in practice, in individual work.” Ashworth said. “She really sets the tone for everyone. She wasn’t feeling great today, but after the doubles, she said there’s no way she wasn’t playing today. That mindset filters down to everybody. I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Chi used late runs in both sets to beat Daxhelet. The pair were tied at 3-3 in the first set and 4-4 in the second set, but each time Chi won the remaining games to give her a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
During the first set on court four, it looked like Chen was going to easily win and become the first Duke freshman to go a perfect 14-0 in conference play and just the second Duke player ever. The rookie from Cerritos, Calif., did not drop a game in the first against Butler. The second set was a different story after Butler took a 4-2 lead. Chen tied the set at four games apiece and then the duo traded the lead back and forth. With Chen leading 6-5 and playing for match point, Butler extended the match to a tiebreaker. Finally, Chen took the tiebreaker for a 6-0, 7-6 (8-6) win and join McCarthy as the only two Duke players with 14-0 ACC records.
“Kelly Chen, I’ve played doubles with her, which has been so much fun,” said Harris. “Seeing how she competes in singles and how she likes performing for the crowd, it’s really great to see. Especially going undefeated, as a freshman, is really tough to do. But she’s been so solid for us and has been an integral part of the team.”
Duke earns the top seed in the ACC tournament for the first time since the 2012 season. The Blue Devils will open the tournament at 9:00 a.m., on Friday, April 27. The tournament will be held at Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C.
“First of all, to be one of the top four seeds in the ACC tournament so we don’t have to play four times in four days is a big thing,” added Ashworth. “Not having to start until Friday is huge for us because it gives us an extra day off and an extra day to prepare. Confidence wise, to know that over the course of the season, we’ve proven that we’re the best team. There’s nothing that can hold us back really, except ourselves. If we take care of ourselves this week and play smart and focused tennis, there’s no one that we can’t beat. We’re going to celebrate this, take a minute or two to enjoy this and really reflect on the season we had. A lot of times you win something and think what’s next, but we’re going to take time to enjoy this and then prepare the best we can.”
1. No. 4 Samantha Harris (Duke) def. No. 63 Natalie Novotna (VT) 7-5, 6-4
2. No. 81 Meible Chi (Duke) def. Carolina Daxhelet (VT) 6-3, 6-4
3. No. 119 Kaitlyn McCarthy (Duke) def. Nika Kozar (VT) 6-2, 6-4
4. No. 29 Kelly Chen (Duke) def. Katherine Butler (VT) 6-0, 7-6 (8-6)
5. No. 124 Ellyse Hamlin (Duke) def. Nina Sorkin (VT) 6-1, 6-2
6. Hannah Zhao (Duke) def. Shene Disbergen (VT) 6-0, 6-0
1. No. 9 Kaitlyn McCarthy/Ellyse Hamlin (Duke) def. Caroline Daxhelet/Natalie Novotna (VT) 6-0
2. No. 6 Samantha Harris/Kelly Chen (Duke) def. Nina Sorkin/Nika Kozar (VT) 7-5
3. Hannah Zhao/Meible Chi (Duke) vs. Sarah Baron/Katherine Butler (VT) 5-5, unfinished
Virginia Tech 12-11, 3-11 ACC
Duke 21-2, 13-1 ACC; National ranking No. 4
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (6,5,3,1,2,4)