CARY, N.C. – Duke’s run at the ACC Championship came to an end Sunday in the finals as the sixth-ranked Blue Devils were unable to come-from-behind for the second straight day against seventh-ranked Virginia. The Cavaliers (21-5) registered a 4-2 victory on its way to capturing the ACC Championship at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C.
The Blue Devils (24-4) were trying to win their fourth match in four days against a Virginia squad that posted quick victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
“I think we played the right lineup and we had the right lineup that we wanted for the tournament,” said Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We struggled with some spots late in the year so we made some changes and those changes came through well for us. We put ourselves in a difficult situation last weekend having to come here and play four matches in four days. I think it caught up with us a little bit. Most of the matches out here were three sets today, but it was a great match. Virginia did a great job closing out matches and hopefully we get better because of today.”
For the first time this tournament, Duke dropped the doubles point as Virginia netted wins at the No. 2 and No. 3 slots. The Blue Devils opened with a quick, 8-3, victory on court one as fifth-ranked Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar downed Li Xi and Stephanie Nauta. The Blue Devils won the first four games, before dropping their first to cut the lead to 4-1. Capra and Mar would go on to win their ninth straight match.
“It was a really good match today,” commented Capra. “Playing UVA is always really tough. I couldn’t be happier with the effort that we have put in this whole week. Playing next to these girls is such a honor. They are such good competitors and such great people. I had a lot of fun today. Hopefully we can learn from this and get it back in the NCAAs.”
The Blue Devil tandem of 30th-ranked Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith would take a 2-1 lead against 13th-ranked Julia Elbaba and Rachel Pierson. The match stayed close most of the way until the Cavaliers went ahead 6-3, but Goldfeld and Smith battled back to even the score, 6-6. Virginia held on for two games to take the 8-6 victory.
After netting wins for the Blue Devils the last two days, the 88th-ranked Duke duo of Annie Mulholland and Chalena Scholl got off to a solid start leading 3-1. Virginia’s Danielle Collins and Maci Epstein were able to break the Blue Devils to cut the Duke lead to 3-2 and then took control of the match. The Cavaliers went ahead 5-3 and ended up clinching the doubles point with an 8-6 win.
Virginia got off to a great start in singles leading early in five of the six matches, but the Blue Devils would try to make a comeback.
The Cavaliers were able to take a 2-0 lead with a 6-3, 6-1 win by 36th-ranked Collins over 26th-ranked Goldfeld on court two.
Duke stormed back to even the score, 2-2, after wins by redshirt junior Rachel Kahan and Scholl on courts six and four. Kahan, who is out of Unionville, Conn., collected a 7-5, 6-3 win for her 16th singles victory of the season over Caryssa Peretz.
After dropping the first set, 6-4, Scholl switched gears and only lost two more games winning, 6-0, 6-2, on the fourth court over 69th-ranked Pierson. Scholl, who is out of Pampano Beach, Fla., closed the tournament with a 4-0 mark in singles.
A native of Laguna Niguel, Calif., Smith went ahead 5-1 on court four versus Epstein, before the Cavalier battled back to send the match into a tiebreaker. Smith would come out ahead, 8-6, to win the first set. Epstein went on to never trail winning the next two sets, 6-4, 6-1, and putting Virginia ahead, 3-2.
Capra, a sophomore out of Ellicott City, Md., and Duke’s lone senior on the court, Mar, were left to try to bring home the title for the Blue Devils.
After going down 5-0 on court one to fourth-ranked Elbaba, Capra made an improbable comeback to win the first set, 7-5. Elbaba came back in the second set to win, 6-2, to send the match into a third set.
A day after playing a three hour and four minute three-set thriller, Mar was in another battle on court three with 62nd-ranked Nauta. Mar dropped the first set for the second straight day, 6-3, but came back to win the second, 6-4. In the third set, Mar fell behind, 5-3, but won three consecutive games to lead 6-5. Mar, who is from Burr Ridge, Ill., went on to have two match points, but was over-ruled on a potential match-clinching shot and would never gain control from then on. Nauta evened the score, 6-6, sending the match into a breaker.
In the tiebreaker, Nauta never trailed winning 7-3 to clinch the 4-2 win for Virginia. When the match was decided, Capra and Elbaba were tied, 4-4, on court one.
Duke will next await the NCAA Tournament selection show Tuesday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m.