WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The No. 3 Duke women’s tennis team saw its season come to an end when the Blue Devils fell to No. 15 Stanford 4-2 on Monday afternoon in the NCAA semifinals at Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
Duke finishes its season with a 27-4 record. The Blue Devils won the ACC regular season championship for the 21st time in program history and reached the final four of the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time. The 27 wins were the most for the Blue Devils since also winning 27 during the 2014 season. Stanford advances to take on Vanderbilt at 1:00 p.m., on Tuesday in the final.
“I just told the girls, if you look at where we were 365 days ago, not just on the court but off the court, I think our program is in a really good place right now,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We had a good win over UNC to win the ACC regular season title, which means a lot to our program, especially with how tough our conference is. We came into this thing that we had a great opportunity to advance and to possibly win it. There are four teams playing today that are all playing really good tennis. As a whole, I think our program is in a great spot. This is where we want to be.”
The Blue Devils started the match on the offensive, taking leads on all three doubles courts. On court one, Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin bounced back from a loss in their quarterfinal match to top Stanford’s third-ranked pair of Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon. The two teams held serve for the first five games, allowing Duke’s tandem to take a 3-2 lead. McCarthy and Hamlin then used a critical break point to extend their lead to 4-2, allowing the pair to close out a 6-3 win by holding serve. It is the sixth ranked win of the postseason for Duke’s junior duo, three of which came against top-five opponents.
Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen took an early 3-0 lead on court two while Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao did the same on court three. However, Harris and Chen did not win another game until they trailed Caroline Lampl and Kimberly Yee 5-3, and eventually fell 6-4. Chi and Zhao extended their lead to 5-1, but like Harris and Chen, allowed Stanford to make a comeback. The Cardinal pairing of Melissa Lord and Janice Shin tied the match at five games apiece, but Chi and Zhao righted the ship by holding serve and then using a break point to win 7-5.
Needing three singles matches, Duke got exactly three first sets, as Harris, McCarthy and Chen all won. Unfortunately for Duke, Stanford was able to close out the other three matches in straight sets, while the Blue Devils struggled to do the same.
“I thought after the doubles, we could take some momentum,” Ashworth said. “We’ve done a really great job this year of after the doubles point, winning a quick singles match and we weren’t able to do that. Five and six just got into a hole there. We definitely battled and competed. I’m really proud of the season we had.”
Stanford picked up wins on courts five and six to take the lead. On court six, Zhao trailed Emma Higuchi 5-0 in the first set. Zhao battled back to within 5-4 and had a chance to tie the match at 5-5, but Higuchi prevented that to take the first set 6-4. Higuchi followed with a quick second set to win 6-4, 6-0. On court five, Shin cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 win over Hamlin to give Stanford the lead.
On court two, Lord won the final four games of the first set to take an early lead against Chi. The pair battled back and forth in the second set, neither taking an advantage of more than a game. Chi had a chance to win the set as she led 6-5, but Lord held serve and then pitched a shutout in the tiebreaker to win 6-2, 7-6 (7-0).
The Blue Devils got some hope when Harris was able to win a second set tiebreaker of her own against Gordon. Harris was knotted with Gordon 2-2 in the first set and then pulled away to win 6-2. In the second set, Harris led most of the way before Gordon took a 6-5 lead of her own. Duke’s senior from Melbourne, Australia won the next two games to force the tiebreaker, where she won 7-3 to clinch a 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) win.
McCarthy and Chen both won their first sets, against Lampl and Arbuthnott, respectively, but neither could close out the match in straight sets. In her third set, McCarthy fell behind Lampl early on and never recovered, allowing Lampl to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 and clinch the match.
Duke is not done playing in Winston-Salem. Harris, Chen and Chi will all take part in the NCAA singles tournament starting on Wednesday. Harris and Chen, along with McCarthy and Hamlin, will also represent Duke in the NCAA doubles tournament, which will begin on Thursday. The draws for both tournaments will be released later this week.
1. #9 Kaitlyn McCarthy/Ellyse Hamlin (DUKE) def. #3 Emily Arbuthnott/Michaela Gordon (STANFORD) 6-3
2. #84 Caroline Lampl/Kimberly Yee (STANFORD) def. #6 Kelly Chen/Samantha Harris (DUKE) 6-4
3. Meible Chi/Hannah Zhao (DUKE) def. Melissa Lord/Janice Shin (STANFORD) 7-5
1. #6 Samantha Harris (DUKE) def. #15 Michaela Gordon (STANFORD) 6-2, 7-6(3)
2. #40 Melissa Lord (STANFORD) def. #55 Meible Chi (DUKE) 6-2, 7-6(0)
3. #93 Caroline Lampl (STANFORD) def. #116 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DUKE) 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
4. #28 Kelly Chen (DUKE) vs. #43 Emily Arbuthnott (STANFORD) 6-4, 3-6, 3-4, unf.
5. #96 Janice Shin (STANFORD) def. #84 Ellyse Hamlin (DUKE) 6-1, 6-1
6. #102 Emma Higuchi (STANFORD) def. Hannah Zhao (DUKE) 6-4, 6-0
Doubles: (1,2,3) Singles (6,5,2,1)