CARY, N.C. – The No. 3 Duke women’s tennis team opened its postseason with a 5-0 win over No. 38 NC State on Friday afternoon at the Cary Tennis Center.
With the win, the Blue Devils advance to the ACC Tournament semifinals for the second straight year. NC State leaves the conference championship with a 17-14 record.
“NC State played a great match,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “They played free and played with nothing to lose. They all came out swinging on every court. I thought that we were in a little bit of a defensive mode. We talked a little bit before the match about making we go out and attack and get what we want. We’re not here defending anything at all. We have to definitely get better. Hopefully we can hold onto the confidence of not playing a great match, but beating a good team 5-0 and pick up our level of play tomorrow.”
Duke cruised out to a doubles win on court two when Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen jumped to a 3-0 lead against Adriana Reami and Amanda Rebol. The fifth-ranked Blue Devil pair never looked back and completed a 6-1 win. The other two courts were not as easy and both needed a tiebreaker to separate the teams. On court one, Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin trailed Anna Rogers and Claudia Wiktorin 5-6, but staved off defeat to send the match to the tiebreak. There, the 12th-ranked Blue Devil pair led early and had two chances to win at 6-5 and 7-6. Each time NC State recovered, but the third time proved to be the charm and McCarthy and Hamlin escaped 7-6 (9-7).
Heading into singles, Duke seemed to have the momentum, but it was all NC State in the early going as the Wolfpack took leads on five courts. NC State capitalized on three of those leads, as McCarthy, Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao all trailed after the first set. But comebacks by Chen, and especially Hamlin who turned around 0-3 and 2-5 deficits, combined with a first set win for Harris made sure the two teams split the first six sets.
“They’re never out of it,” Ashworth said. “Even if we’re down in some matches or down in the doubles, whatever it is. We have so much confidence in themselves and trust in themselves, that they know that their teammates are going to pull through and the same goes for themselves. Confidence-wise, hopefully they understand that we don’t want to get down in that situation, but if we do, we’re never out of any match at all and can fight back to find a way to win.”
After dropping their first sets, McCarthy, Chi and Zhao all clawed back into the match with second set wins. Zhao trailed 1-2 early on, but after that, the match was controlled by the Duke rookie who did not lose another game in the set. Chi and McCarthy both took early leads in their second set, leads they did not relinquish on the way to identical 6-2 wins. Unfortunately for Duke, Harris joined her three teammates heading to a third set as Rogers battled back to win the second set on court one.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Chi said. “In this tournament, everyone is going to play well and they’re going to push you. I think that seeing everyone being challenged and dropping a couple of sets, but hanging in there, it gives your teammates the confidence that we’re still in this no matter what. It makes everyone keep going and keep fighting.”
After a 14-0 ACC regular season and riding a 16-match winning streak, Chen added another win to her total by dominating the second set and beating Wiktorin 7-5, 6-1 to give Duke a 2-0 lead.
The next point came when Zhao continued her turnaround with a dominant third set to beat Tayla Stenta 1-6, 6-2, 6-1.
The day’s clinching point came when Chi, who was tied 4-4 in the decisive third set, broke Reami to capture a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win. Hamlin finished up a 7-6 (7-2), 7-5 win seconds later to make the final score 5-0.
“It was kind of a grind,” said Chi. “I thought she (Reami) played really well. I didn’t play her in the regular season, but I’ve known her and knew it would be a really tough match. Even to the last point, it could have gone either way.”
Duke will advance to meet up with fourth-seeded Miami. The Hurricanes advanced to the semifinal round with a 4-1 win over Virginia Tech. The match is scheduled to start at 10:00 a.m., and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.
“Miami is good and they play with a lot of emotion,” Ashworth added. “We just need to come out and take advantage of the opportunities. We’ve been trying to do that the last couple of weeks and we need to get back to doing that. Today, we were in a little bit of hoping they were going to miss mode. But we were able to win. Hopefully we can build on it and play a better match tomorrow. Play a little bit more free than we did today.”
1. No. 6 Samantha Harris (Duke) vs. No. 89 Anna Rogers (NCST) 6-3, 4-6, 4-5, unfinished
2. No. 54 Meible Chi (Duke) def. No. 103 Adriana Reami (NCST) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
3. No. 105 Kaitlyn McCarthy (Duke) vs. Taylor Bridges (NCST) 2-6, 6-2, 4-2, unfinished
4. No. 28 Kelly Chen (Duke) def. Claudia Wiktorin (NCST) 7-5, 6-1
5. No. 118 Ellyse Hamlin (Duke) def. Bianca Moldovan (NCST) 7-6 (7-2), 7-5
6. Hannah Zhao (Duke) def. Tayla Stenta (NCST) 1-6, 6-2, 6-1
1. No. 12 Kaitlyn McCarthy/Ellyse Hamlin (Duke) def. No. 26 Anna Rogers/Claudia Wiktorin (NCST) 7-6 (9-7)
2. No. 5 Samantha Harris/Kelly Chen (Duke) def. Adriana Reami/Amanda Rebol (NCST) 6-1
3. Meible Chi/Hannah Zhao (Duke) vs. Tayla Stenta/Bianca Moldovan (NCST) 6-6, unfinished