Hanna Mar has done it again. The three-time All-ACC selection came-from-behind to win a three-set tiebreaker to push the fifth-seeded and sixth-ranked Duke women’s tennis team into the ACC Championship with a 4-3 win over top-seeded and 11th-ranked North Carolina (24-5) Saturday afternoon at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary, N.C.CARY, N.C. – Duke senior
The Blue Devils (24-3) will next face Virginia (20-5) Sunday, April 27 in the ACC Championship at 11:00 a.m.
Mar, who is a native of Burr Ridge, Ill., dropped the first set on court three, 6-3, to 50th-ranked Caroline Price before storming back to win the second, 6-1. In the deciding third set, Mar fell behind as much as 5-3 late, but was able to even the match, 5-5 following a string of six straight breaks for the student-athletes.
“I felt that I wasn’t playing at the beginning kind of the way that I needed to to be able to win the match,” said Mar. “It was really important to make some changes in how I was playing and I think that I did that really effectively in the second set. That is why I was able to win that set. In the third set, it was really important for me to continue to do that, but also to just not let things get too out of hand, stay in the moment in the one point I was playing.”
The 35th-ranked Mar once again fell behind, 6-5, but was able to hold on to send the match into a third set tiebreaker, 6-6. In the breaker, Price went ahead, 2-1, but Mar made a run to take a 3-2 lead. After switching sides at 3-3, Mar would only lose one more point on her way to winning the tiebreaker, 7-4, and sending Duke into the ACC Championship for the 22nd time in school history.
“The knowledge that it is not over, it is not finished until it is actually finished,” commented Mar on where she drew her strength from when she was down. “I just had to keep going at one point in time. I had great support from my teammates and people around watching who I just knew were with me and still believed that I could win that match and so I didn’t stop believing either.”
Duke’s lone senior on the court, Mar once again came through for the Blue Devils as she also guided Duke to the National Team Indoor Championship with a 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 10-3 win on court three against UCLA’s 24th-ranked Jennifer Brady. Mar went on to be named MVP of the indoor championship.
“It is fitting and it is a position she has been in before this year,” commented Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth on Mar. “With the finals of the National Team Indoors it came down to her in a tiebreaker and she battled through that one. It was kind of the same deal – the person who was going to be the more aggressive person was the person that was going to win. I kept telling her that seven out of the whatever last points have been won by someone inside the baseline and up at the net. You’ve got to take some chances and make her come up with a shot to beat you. If she does that is fine.”
The match started on a high for Duke as the Blue Devils claimed the doubles point in thrilling fashion. The Blue Devil 88th-ranked tandem of Chalena Scholl and Annie Mulholland cruised to an 8-3 win over Laura Slater and Kate Vialle on court three, while North Carolina’s Jamie Loeb and Ashley Dai downed 30th-ranked Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith, 8-3, on the second court.
It all came down to Duke’s fifth-ranked Beatrice Capra and Mar versus North Carolina’s Caroline Price and Whitney Kay. The Blue Devils held the lead early in the match, 4-3, but the Tar Heels fought back to take a 5-4 lead by winning two straight points. Capra and Mar responded by winning two points to take a 6-5 lead. Price and Kay then broke Mar’s serve to even the ledger at 6-6. Duke then broke UNC to lead 7-6 with Capra serving for the doubles point. The Duke tandem came through without losing a point to put the Blue Devils ahead, 1-0, with an 8-6 victory.
Duke is now 23-1 this year when winning the doubles point, with the lone loss coming at Virginia Feb. 21. Capra and Mar moved to 16-5 on the year and won their eighth consecutive match.
In singles play, North Carolina came out very strong to lead on courts one, two, three and five. Duke’s Scholl and redshirt junior Rachel Kahan were solid on courts four and six, respectively.
Kahan made quick work of Vialle, 6-1, 6-2, in a singles match that took only one hour and 16 minutes. A product of Unionville, Conn., Kahan went ahead 3-0 in both sets on her way to improving to 16-6 on the year and giving Vialle just her fourth loss of the season.
With Duke leading 2-0, Scholl downed Kay, 6-4, 6-3, on court four to put the Blue Devils within one win of the team victory. Scholl, who is from Pampano Beach, Fla., won her fourth straight match and the eighth out of her last 11.
North Carolina would then take control of the match winning on courts two, one and five to even the contest, 3-3. The fifth-ranked Hayley Carter knocked off 26th-ranked Goldfeld, 6-3, 6-4, on the second court, top-ranked Loeb defeated seventh-ranked Capra, 6-3, 6-3, and 111th-ranked Dai ousted 113th-ranked Smith, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).
All focus turned to the No. 3 court with big crowds surrounding the stadium. Mar would pull out a three hour and four minute match to send Duke to the championship. The win for Mar was the third of the season against the Tar Heels in dual match action and her second straight versus Price.
“Having her [Hanna] on the court and having someone that has been in that position before in a situation like this is great,” said Ashworth. “She is not going to give away free points, she will run down a lot of balls and will make someone come out and beat her. She did that. She stayed with it, she was down really the whole set. The first time she had any kind of breathing room was at 5-3 in the breaker. She never was up and had time to sit back and relax. It is great to have her out there when we need a match like that.”
Duke has claimed ACC Championship 17 times with the last title coming in 2012, following a 4-2 defeat of North Carolina. The Blue Devils will play their fourth match in four consecutive days Sunday and will try to become just the second ACC team to claim the ACC Championship by winning four matches to win the title – Georgia Tech (2010).