CARY, N.C. – The fifth-seeded and sixth-ranked Duke women’s tennis team avenged a loss eight days ago versus fourth-seeded and 12th-ranked Clemson (21-6) with a 4-0 blanking of the Lady Tigers Friday morning in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C.
With the victory, Duke (23-3) advances to the ACC semifinals and will face top-seeded and 11th-ranked North Carolina Saturday, April 26 at 10:00 a.m.
“I was pleased with the energy level and the commitment to that that we came out with more than anything else,” said Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth. “The play was good, but the intangible stuff like energy, not getting down [was great]. The commitment to that was really good and that was something that we talked about. We had played them eight days ago and we were flat when we played them. So we made a special emphasis on that today.”
In the previous match, the Blue Devils dropped the doubles point against Clemson, but Friday Duke came out with extra emotion and stayed focus the entire time. Even though the Lady Tigers opened doubles by taking the first game on all three courts, Duke came back to win the next two games to hold a 2-1 advantage on each of the three courts.
Duke’s 88th-ranked tandem of Annie Mulholland and Chalena Scholl would never trail after falling behind, 1-0, to Jessy Rompies and Joana Eidukonyte. The Blue Devil duo faced a 2-2 ledger, before winning five straight games to take a 7-2 lead. Clemson would win one more game, before Mulholland and Scholl put the Lady Tigers away, 8-3. The Duke duo improved to 7-2 on the year.
“It was huge,” commented Ashworth on the No. 3 doubles victory. “We worked with them all week on some things – being a little more aggressive and a little more disciplined with their shot selections. They can both hit big shots but they tend to not be as smart or disciplined as they can be a lot of times. We really worked with that. Those two believed it would work and it was good.”
On court one, Duke’s Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar would fall behind 3-2, but came back to win three consecutive games to take a 5-3 advantage against Yana Koroleva and Romy Koelzer. The fifth-ranked group for Duke would only lose one more game on their way to improving to 15-5 overall and won their seventh straight match.
When the doubles point was clinched, Duke’s 30th-ranked Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith were winning 7-5 versus 78th-ranked Beatrice Gumulya and Tristen Dewar.
“It was very important for us for a momentum thing to start off [strong],” commented Mar. “I think we played very, very well in doubles. That was a great way to start off the match, get momentum, get excited and get the lead. From there we just played really well. I think everybody did that. There was so much fight on the court and everybody was doing their best for each and every point for each other.”
Clemson jumped out on the Blue Devils at the start of singles play leading on courts one, four, five and six, but Duke would not panic.
Scholl, who is out of Pampano Beach, Fla., came back from being down 3-2 in the first set to win 6-3. She never looked back against 115th-ranked Dewar cruising in the second set, 6-2, to put the Blue Devils ahead, 2-0. Scholl improved to 2-0 playing at No. 4 singles and 8-6 overall on the year.
Duke dropped the first set on court one and trailed, 5-2, on courts five and six, but Capra, Smith and redshirt junior Rachel Kahan each battled hard to keep their matches going.
On court three, Mar made quick work of 91st-ranked Gumulya, 6-1, 6-1, and the Blue Devils led, 3-0. Mar, who is from Burr Ridge, Ill., won her sixth consecutive match to improve to 26-9 on the year.
One of the key turning points in Friday’s match came on court two between Duke’s 26th-ranked Goldfeld and Clemson’s 33rd-ranked Koelzer. The Lady Tigers held a 5-4 lead and also led 6-5, but Goldfeld battled back to win a tiebreaker, 7-2, after evening the match, 6-6. A product of Brooklyn, N.Y., Goldfeld rolled in the second set, 6-1, to clinch the win for the Blue Devils, 4-0.
Capra, who is ranked seventh nationally, dropped her first set, 6-1, but came back to win in the second, 7-5, versus 32nd-ranked Koroleva, when the match was clinched. Smith turned around her match on court five as she trailed 5-2, before storming back to win the first set, 7-5. On court six, Kahan dropped the first set, 7-5 and trailed 5-0 when the match was clinched.
“It was definitely close,” Ashworth said about singles. “The biggest thing was actually Beatrice staying on the court. Not letting Clemson get a point. We were down 5-2 and five and 5-2 at six. The same thing – not letting them get any kind of momentum, not letting them get a point on the board and letting us take care of winning matches where we were ahead. I think that was big as they did a good job of feeding off each other. Mentally and emotionally, I think we were up on a real high.”
Earlier this season, Duke downed North Carolina, 5-2, at home in Durham March 2 and also won, 4-2, Feb. 8 in the ITA National Team Indoors.