DURHAM, N.C. -- The 10th-ranked Duke women’s tennis team welcomes No. 57 Columbia, No. 53 Tulane and No. 42 Kentucky to the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center in Durham, N.C., Friday, Jan. 24 through Sunday, Jan. 26, as part of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Kickoff Weekend.
The Blue Devils are set to face Columbia at 10 a.m. Friday morning, before Tulane and Kentucky meet at 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. The winner of each contest will compete in the championship match, scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday. The two teams that fall in the opening match of the weekend will face one another in the consolation match Sunday morning at 9 a.m.
“The more we can put ourselves in pressure situations, the better,” Duke women’s tennis head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “The better the competition, the more pressure you’re going to have on yourself, both mentally and physically on the court, so I think we try to put ourselves in those positions as much as we can, whether it was with William & Mary in the first weekend or this past weekend with some of the teams that were out in Las Vegas. Everything we do is preparing us for future competition. This weekend is a great opportunity for us, with our first match against Columbia.”
The Blue Devils return to dual-match competition following an appearance in the Freeman Memorial Championship in Las Vegas, Nev., where Duke faced some of the strongest competition in the nation. Two-time ACC Female Tennis Player of the Week, junior Ester Goldfeld, led the Blue Devils over the weekend, posting a 3-1 singles record, as well as improving to 3-1 against ranked opponents in 2014. Alongside teammate and fellow junior Annie Mulholland, Goldfeld compiled a 1-1 mark in doubles. The duo currently sits ranked 14th in the nation by the ITA
“The energy in our doubles was really good this weekend, so we definitely need to carry that over,” Ashworth said. “We have to do a better job of fighting for points in singles and not relying on people to make errors, but us being the ones that are in control of the point and the tempo of the point. Doing a better job of controlling the whole match situation on the singles court is also a focus of ours. I think we learned to do that a little better as the weekend went and that’s something we need to continue to work on. We need to come out and play a good match Friday [against Columbia] and make sure we’re prepared and in the right frame of mind heading into that match. Hopefully what we’ve done in the last few weeks will help with that.”
Columbia opens its 2014 dual-match season against Duke on Friday. The Lions enter the 2014 campaign with two singles players ranked by the ITA, including No. 75 Kanika Vaidya and No. 101 Bianca Sanon, as well as two ranked doubles teams in the No. 20 pair of Crystal Leung and Tina Jiang and the No. 24 duo of Sanon and Vaidya. Columbia concluded last season with a 13-5 ledger. The meeting between Duke and Columbia marks the second in school history, with the Blue Devils leading the series, 1-0.
Kentucky enters the ITA Kickoff Weekend on a two-match win streak after welcoming Cincinnati and Ball State to Lexington, Ky., Jan. 18, to kick start the 2014 season. The Wildcats won in decisive fashion against Cincinnati, 7-0, as well as upended Ball State, 4-2. Kentucky’s No. 108 Nadia Ravita is the lone Wildcat female tennis player ranked in singles by the ITA. The team of Kelsey Dieters and CeCe Witten rank 56th among the nation’s top doubles pairs.
The Tulane Green Wave return to competition following a 6-1 victory over Southern Miss in New Orleans, La., on Jan. 18. Should the Blue Devils face Tulane this weekend, the contest would mark the first time in school history that Duke would compete against the Green Wave.
The ITA Kickoff Weekend begins Friday, Jan. 22, at 10 a.m. in the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. Admission for the event is free.