ATHENS, Ga. – The fifth-ranked Duke women’s tennis team put in a valiant effort, but ultimately fell to No. 3 UCLA, 4-2, in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Team Championship Saturday afternoon in Athens, Ga. Duke, which has reached the quarterfinal round 17 times in school history, fell to 4-6 all-time when facing the Bruins.
“I think [UCLA] hit the ball harder than we’ve seen all year,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “I think that knocked us back a little bit. I thought we definitely still had chances going into singles. When we played them earlier in the year, even though it was a little different format, we were still able to win four singles matches. I’ve said all year they’re one of the best teams in the country and they’re one of two or three teams that could win this thing. We did everything we could to play the best we could, but they were just better than us in the bigger points.”
The Bruins took an early advantage over Duke, winning the doubles point for the 26th consecutive match this season.
On court three, the doubles team of junior Annie Mulholland and freshman Chalena Scholl fought back from an early 0-4 deficit, bringing the match to 3-4, but were unable to take the lead en route to a 3-8 defeat against UCLA’s duo of Courtney Dolehide and Chanelle Van Nguyen. Dolehide and Van Nguyen led the Bruins off the courts in doubles.
The Bruin’s top-ranked doubles pair in the country, Jennifer Brady and Robin Anderson, upended Duke’s fifth-ranked pair of senior Hanna Mar and sophomore Beatrice Capra, 5-8. After falling behind 0-2, a Duke break and hold tied the match at 2-2. The Blue Devil tandem was unable to take the lead however, as Brady and Anderson won three consecutive games to take a 2-5 lead. A Duke hold brought the match to 3-5 before the Bruins pair clinched the doubles point by winning three consecutive games.
The contest on court two between Duke’s 36th-ranked team of junior Ester Goldfeld and freshman Alyssa Smith and UCLA’s ninth-ranked pair of Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips was abandoned with Duke trailing, 2-5.
The Blue Devils began singles play with strong performances from redshirt junior Rachel Kahan and Mar on courts six and three, respectively.
Kahan led the Blue Devils off the courts in singles for the fourth consecutive match this postseason after defeating UCLA’s Kaitlin Ray, 6-1, 6-2. Kahan dropped the first game in the first set before winning six straight. The Unionville, Conn., native never trailed in the second set. Ray brought the set to within a game at 3-2 before Kahan won three straight games to close out the match. Kahan concludes the season with a 20-6 overall record and remains unbeaten in her career in the NCAA Tournament, owning a perfect mark of 11-0.
The 36th-ranked Mar followed Kahan’s performance with a convincing showing of her own on court three, dispatching of UCLA’s 38th-ranked Kyle McPhillips, 6-1, 6-3. Mar opened the first set with a break and never looked back, dropping just one game to tie the set at 1-1 before winning the remaining five games. McPhillips caught her rhythm at the start of the second set, putting Mar in a 1-3 hole, however the Burr Ridge, Ill., native battled back, winning five straight games to close out the contest. With the victory, Mar surpassed her career high for single-season wins with 31.
With the Blue Devils taking a 2-1 lead, the action on the remaining four courts started to intensify.
On court four, 116th-ranked Chalena Scholl found herself in an evenly matched contest with UCLA’s 13th-ranked Chanelle Van Nguyen, as Van Nguyen narrowly defeated Scholl, 4-6, 5-7. Scholl and Van Nguyen tied or exchanged the lead seven times in the first set, however the Pompano Beach, Fla., native was unable to hold off Van Nguyen, dropping the set, 4-6. Scholl asserted herself early in the second set, jumping out to a 4-2 lead. Scholl’s passion was evident throughout the match as she shouted words of encouragement following each won point. Unfortunately, she was unable to secure the second set victory as Van Nguyen pulled even at 4-4 before the two competitors traded games to tie at 5-5. With a hold and a break, Van Nguyen ended the second set, 5-7.
With the match tied at 2-2, contests on courts one and five would determine the outcome.
The match on one pitted the fifth-ranked singles player in the nation, Capra, against the second-ranked Anderson. Anderson earned the victory over Capra, 6-7, 3-6, bringing her team within a point of the win. Capra competed from behind throughout the match, dropping the first three games in the first set before taking three games of her own to tie the set at 3-3. Anderson won two consecutive games to take a 3-5 lead before Capra responded with three wins of her own to see a 6-5 advantage. Anderson would tie the set at 6-6, forcing a tiebreak, which she would win, 5-7. In the second set, Capra trailed 1-4 and was unable to close the gap, eventually falling in the second set, 3-6.
With UCLA taking a 3-2 lead, the match was to be decided by the contest on court five between Smith and 75th-ranked Harrison. Smith jumped out to an early lead in the first set but was eventually outlasted by Harrison, 7-5, 1-6, 3-6. The match was tight in the first set, with ties at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 and 5-5. With a hold and a break, Smith took the first set, 7-5. Harrison responded in the second and third sets, taking 1-4 leads in both to eventually close out the match.
With the contest decided, the match on court two between No. 27 Goldfeld and eighth-ranked Brady remained unfinished. Brady held a slight advantage at 6-4, 4-6, 0-1.
Capra, Goldfeld and Mar are all scheduled to participate in the singles and doubles competition of the NCAA Tournament, slated to begin May 21 in Athens, Ga.
Duke concludes the season with an overall record of 27-5.