WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The No. 3 Duke women’s tennis team dominated singles play to come back and beat No. 13 Texas Tech 4-1 on Saturday morning in the Wake Forest Indoor Tennis Complex.
Duke improves to 27-3 on the season and reaches the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 2012. It is the ninth time that Duke is one of the final four teams remaining in the NCAA Team Tournament. Texas Tech concludes its season with a 23-7 ledger.
For the first time in seven postseason matches, the Blue Devils fell behind after the doubles point. After winning in all seven of those matches, Duke’s top doubles tandem of Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin were unable to keep the streak going, falling to Texas Tech’s No. 28 pair of Sarah Dvorak and Sabrina Federici 6-3. Duke evened the doubles when Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao topped Alex Valenstein and Lana Rush 6-4. Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen fought off a pair of match points against Felicia Maltby and Gabriela Talaba to tie the match at 5-5. But the Red Raiders pair answered with two straight games to clinch the doubles point.
“It was a battle right from the start with the doubles,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We seemed a little bit tight and nervous in the doubles and didn’t get that point.”
Trailing for the first time in an NCAA Tournament match, Duke answered quickly in the singles matches. Blue Devils won the first set on five of the six courts to swing the momentum in Duke’s favor.
“I told them after the doubles that there are still six points still out there and we need to go get six points,” Ashworth said. “That should be our goal. We did a great job of overcoming the momentum that they had in doubles. We got a quick first set on (court) six and a quick first set on (court) three and you could feel us starting to get the momentum changing a little bit. Our girls became more relaxed and were more positive on the courts.”
After earning the clinching point against Northwestern in the round of 16, Zhao carried that confidence into Saturday’s match and quickly won her first set against No. 120 Katelyn Jackson. The freshman from San Diego, Calif., was not as dominant in the second set, but still finished on top to beat Jackson 6-2, 6-4. It is the first ranked win of Zhao’s collegiate career.
Winning for the ninth time in 10 matches was McCarthy. The Cary, N.C., product was efficient against Alex Valenstein, dropping two games in each set for a 6-2, 6-2 win. That win regained the lead for Duke and put the Blue Devils halfway to clinching.
Chen came into the match on a 19-match winning streak and she shrugged off the doubles loss to extend that streak. The reigning ACC Freshman of the Year took the first set 6-3 against Sabrina Federici. Chen followed with a perfect second set to take the win 6-3, 6-0. She becomes just the second Duke rookie with a winning streak of at least 20 matches, behind only Rachel Kahan’s 30 straight in 2011.
“Kelly is very coachable which is important at this level,” added Ashworth. “I think Kelly came out feeling sorry for herself with how she played in the doubles because she didn’t play great doubles. I told her two games into the singles if you are going to sit here and sulk about the doubles, then get off the court. You have to be tougher than that. You have to put it behind you because there is absolutely nothing we can do about the doubles right now except go play good singles. She responded very well. You have to know your players and Kelly is someone who can handle something like that.”
The only Blue Devil to fail to win her first set was Chi on court two. Maltby quickly took control of the first set and was up 2-0 in the second set. Chi, who was playing on her birthday, did not lose another game in the second set, clawing all the way back to win it 6-2 and force a decisive third set. Chi’s strong play continued into that third set as she pushed out to a 5-3 lead. Maltby made it interesting, winning a break point to close within a game. Chi answered once again to break Maltby’s serve and clinch the match for Duke.
“It is definitely a great way to celebrate a birthday,” Chi said. “I didn’t know I was the clinch because I couldn’t see the other side (No. 5 and No. 6). I knew that we were close and how important every point was. I was just playing to put my point on the board. I saw my teammates out there and going wild after every point and that really helped me get through.”
Duke will matchup with the winner of No. 7 seed Georgia and No. 15 seed Stanford at 12:00 p.m., on Monday afternoon. The match will take place at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex and tickets can be purchased here.
1. #28 Sarah Dvorak/Sabrina Federici (TEXAS TECH) def. #9 Kaitlyn McCarthy/Ellyse Hamlin (DUKE) 6-3
2. Felicity Maltby/Gabriela Talaba (TEXAS TECH) def. #6 Kelly Chen/Samantha Harris (DUKE) 7-5
3. Meible Chi/Hannah Zhao (DUKE) def. Alex Valenstein/Lana Rush (TEXAS TECH) 6-4
1. #6 Samantha Harris (DUKE) vs. #21 Gabriela Talaba (TEXAS TECH) 6-4, 3-6, 3-0, unf.
2. #55 Meible Chi (DUKE) def. #58 Felicity Maltby (TEXAS TECH) 2-6, 6-2, 6-4
3. #116 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DUKE) def. Alex Valenstein (TEXAS TECH) 6-2, 6-2
4. #28 Kelly Chen (DUKE) def. #106 Sabrina Federici (TEXAS TECH) 6-3, 6-0
5. #84 Ellyse Hamlin (DUKE) vs. Sarah Dvorak (TEXAS TECH) 6-5, 3-6, 1-1, unf.
6. Hannah Zhao (DUKE) def. #120 Katelyn Jackson (TEXAS TECH) 6-2, 6-4
Doubles: (1,3,2) Singles (6,3,4,2)