CARY, N.C. - Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth demanded energy and intensity out of his team, and the top-seeded Blue Devils responded to that message, charging past Virginia, 4-0, in Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament semifinal to reach its first title match since its 2009 championship. The victory also extended the team's longest winning streak of the season to 13 straight.
"I thought our energy level was really good," Ashworth stated. "I told them [the team] that Virginia's a very emotional team. The only way to keep their emotion level down is for ours to be high and kind of throw them on their heels on an emotional level."
Virginia swept the doubles point in the regular season clash, but Saturday afternoon's results couldn't have been any more different. Duke's 27th-ranked tandem comprised of sophomore Rachel Kahan and freshman Beatrice Capra gave the Blue Devils an early lead after upsetting the Cavaliers' 13th-ranked duo of Emily Fraser and Lindsey Hardenbergh, 8-2, in the No. 2 spot. The win was the unit's second in as many days and improved their overall record to 18-5 this season.
The No. 1 doubles match featured Duke's 23rd-ranked team of junior Mary Clayton and Ester Goldfeld against Virginia's 64th-ranked duo of Erin Vierra and Hana Tomljanovic. Trailing for a considerable portion of the early going, the Blue Devils fought back to break the Cavaliers and take a 6-5 lead, before going on to clinch the doubles point with an 8-6 victory.
"Our doubles was so much better than it's been," Ashworth said. "We were really disciplined with where we were hitting the ball. We didn't force anything. We kind of let the matches come to us and let the shots come to us.
When Duke clinches the doubles point, there might not be a better indicator of a Duke win this season. Not only has the team lost the doubles point just five times in its 26 matches this season, but the Blue Devils are 21-0 when winning two out of three doubles contests.
"That's a huge motivator for us going into singles. I have full confidence in our team that we can win four singles matches. For someone to come out and have to beat us [in] four singles matches, is a tough task right now."
Singles play was Virginia's opportunity to show counter, but Duke's momentum could not be halted. Sophomore and 49th-ranked Hanna Mar was the first off the court, grabbing a solid 6-3, 6-4 win over 99th-ranked Li Xi in the No. 4 spot to give the Blue Devils a 2-0 advantage in the overall match.
The No. 1 singles matchup featured two of the nation's best players in Capra, ranked second, and the Cavaliers' 21st-ranked Fraser. Feeding off Duke's momentum, Capra cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 victory, and pushing her record to 17-3 against ranked opponents on her rookie campaign.
With Virginia (18-7, 7-4 ACC) holding advantages in the No. 5 and No. 6 singles matches, Duke (24-2, 11-0 ACC) pounced on the opportunity to close out the match and prevent the Cavaliers from gaining any momentum as All-ACC selection and 92nd-ranked Kahan outlasted 117th-ranked Tomljanovic, 6-2, 6-3, in the No. 3 spot to clinch the overall match.
"It's an awesome feeling," Kahan said. "We have an unbelievable team this year and a great group of girls, and I wouldn't want to go to the (ACC) championship with anyone else. We've worked so hard and we're very confident in our abilities."
In a contest featuring of the tournament's top seeds, Duke will take on rival North Carolina (22-5, 10-1 ACC) for the ACC Championship tomorrow, April 22 at 11 a.m., at the Cary Tennis Park. The Tar Heels defeated sixth-seeded Georgia Tech, 4-3, in their semifinal match.
"I think we'll come out fired up and come out with a purpose. Every shot that we have will have a purpose. I told them before the match today that if we play smart, play disciplined, we trust each other and believe in each other then I'll take my chances with them against anybody in the country. They did a good job with that, and I would expect the same tomorrow."
#2 Duke 4, #15 Virginia 0
Apr. 21, 2012 at Cary, N.C. (Cary Tennis Park)
|1. #2 Beatrice Capra (DU) def. #21 Emily Fraser (UVA) 6-2, 6-1|
|2. #111 Ester Goldfeld (DU) vs. #38 Lindsey Hardenbergh (UVA) 7-6 (7-3), 3-2, unfinished|
|3. #92 Rachel Kahan (DU) def. #117 Hana Tomljanovic (UVA) 6-2, 6-3|
|4. #49 Hanna Mar (DU) def. #99 Li Xi (UVA) 6-3, 6-4|
|5. #74 Mary Clayton (DU) vs. Erin Vierra (UVA) 4-6, 4-4, unfinished|
|6. #88 Monica Turewicz (DU) vs. Caryssa Peretz (UVA) 4-6, 6-3, unfinished|
|1. #23 Ester Goldfeld/Mary Clayton (DU) def. #64 Hana Tomljanovic/Erin Vierra (UVA) 8-6|
|2. #27 Beatrice Capra/Rachel Kahan (DU) def. #13 Emily Fraser/Lindsey Hardenbergh (UVA) 8-2|
|3. Annie Mulholland/Hanna Mar (DU) vs. Maria Fucillo/Li Xi (UVA) 6-7, unfinished|
|Virginia 18-7; National ranking #15|
|Duke 24-2; National ranking #2|
|Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (4,1,3)|