SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The No. 4 Duke women’s tennis team battled back to beat No. 28 Syracuse 4-2 on Friday evening at Drumlins Country Club.
Duke improves to 18-2 on the season and is tied for first place in the ACC with a 10-1 conference record. Syracuse drops to 14-6 overall and 6-6 in conference.
“It was a great win for us,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “Ranking wise, people will say we should beat Syracuse, but that was one of the best wins all year. We were willing to dig our heels in and say we’re not losing.”
For the second time in as many road matches, the Blue Devils dropped the doubles point. Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao were the only Duke doubles tandem to win last week at Georgia Tech, but this time they fell to Anna Shkudun and Sofya Golubovskaya 6-2. A 6-2 win for Syracuse’s 13th-ranked doubles duo of Gabriela Knutson and Miranda Ramirez over Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin put Duke in an early 1-0 hole.
“Syracuse came out and took it to us in the doubles,” said Ashworth. “It’s the hardest that anyone has played against us as far as pace of ball all year. They hit the cover off the ball in doubles.”
Syracuse continued to bring its momentum into the singles matches as the Orange won the first set on courts one and six. Hamlin briefly stemmed the Syracuse tide by winning her first set on court five, but moments later Syracuse took the first set on court two.
That was the high point of the match for the Orange though, as it won just one set the rest of the way. McCarthy and Kelly Chen closed out their first sets to take back some of the momentum and then Samantha Harris and Zhao bounced back to win each of their second sets and force decisive third sets.
Syracuse took its biggest lead of the match when Ramirez beat Chi 6-4, 6-4. That was all the scoring for Syracuse as the Blue Devils slowly turned the match around.
First, McCarthy closed out a tough 7-5, 7-5 win over Golubovskaya. Next, Hamlin and Chen each won in quick succession to put Duke in front for good. Chen topped Maria Tritou 6-4, 6-3 and Hamlin beat Shkudun 6-2, 6-4.
“It started as the same story in singles with Syracuse hitting the ball so hard,” Ashworth said. “but we did an unbelievable job of fighting and competing. I just told them, there was a point in the match where we dug our heels in and said we’re not losing this match. This is one of the toughest places to play and Syracuse has beaten great teams here so we should be proud of winning and competing and being able to stay with it. We even did a great job in matches we lost. Ramirez came out and beat Meible. Meible played really well, but Ramirez didn’t miss and it was just one of those days.”
After failing to win a game in the first set, Harris turned her match around in the second set with a slight adjustment. She then thoroughly dominated the set to beat fourth-ranked Knutson 0-6, 6-4, 6-0 in a top-five matchup and clinch the win for the Blue Devils. That gives Harris 38 career ACC wins, tying her with Reka Zsilinszka for the most by a Duke player.
“It was the same thing,” added Ashworth. “Sam changed a little bit of her game plan and attacked Knutson’s forehand which allowed Sam to hit more with her forehand. She did an amazing job of fighting and competing for every point and Knutson is a heck of a player who has great results in conference and is top five in the country. Sam just got stubborn and did the same as everyone else, refused to lose.”
Duke will close out its regular season road slate this Sunday when the Blue Devils travel to Pittsburgh. First serve against the Panthers is scheduled for 11:00 a.m.
“This time of year, to be able to pull that match out,” added Ashworth, “On not a great road trip and when every team is a little bit tired, for us to have that kind of character was huge for us. We need to walk out of here and be proud of that win. If we fight and compete like that, really good things will happen.”
1. No. 5 Samantha Harris (Duke) def. No. 4 Gabriela Knutson (SU) 0-6, 6-4, 6-0
2. Miranda Ramirez (SU) def. No. 78 Meible Chi (Duke) 6-4, 6-4
3. No. 91 Kaitlyn McCarthy (Duke) def. Sofya Golubovskaya (SU) 7-5, 7-5
4. No. 28 Kelly Chen (Duke) def. Maria Tritou (SU) 6-4, 6-3
5. No. 111 Ellyse Hamlin (Duke) def. Anna Shkudun (SU) 6-2, 6-4
6. Dina Hegab (SU) vs. Hannah Zhao (Duke) 6-2, 1-6, 3-1, unfinished
1. No. 13 Gabriela Knutson/Miranda Ramirez (SU) def. No. 8 Ellyse Hamlin/Kaitlyn McCarthy (Duke) 6-2
2. Dina Hegab/Maria Tritou (SU) vs. No. 6 Kelly Chen/Samantha Harris (Duke) 3-4, unfinished
3. Anna Shkudun/Sofya Golubvskaya (SU) def. Meible Chi/Hannah Zhao (Duke) 6-2
Duke 18-2, 10-1 ACC; National ranking No. 4
Syracuse 14-6, 6-6 ACC; National ranking No. 28
Order of finish: Doubles (3, 1); Singles (2,3,4,5,1)