Tulsa, Okla. – The No. 7 ranked doubles team of Amanda Granson and Melissa Mang won for the second straight day to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla.
Granson and Mang faced No. 32 Nika Koukhartchouk and Karen Nijssen of the University of Mississippi on Friday. The Ole Miss duo controlled the early part of the match and took a 5-2 lead in the first set. The two Blue Devils, facing a loss in the first set, fought all the way back with five straight games to win by a 7-5 count.
“When we were down 5-2 we just told ourselves we had to remain positive,” said Granson. “We just needed to try and get back to what we do best which is being aggressive and getting to the net. We just did everything we could to play the game like we like to play. That is in our favor.”
Duke found themselves trailing 3-1 in the second set but once again got things going and turned it into a 5-3 lead with four consecutive games. Koukhartchouk and Nijssen staged off defeat for just a little longer, winning the next game but Mang was able to serve out the match to win in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.
“They got off to a slow start and were down 5-2 in the first set but as soon as they started moving forward and taking control of the net they started playing better,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “When they play their best they are the ones being aggressive, moving a lot and setting the tempo. They changed their mindset halfway through the first set and did a good job.”
Granson and Mang improve to 28-10 overall in doubles after collecting their eighth victory over a ranked doubles team. They will move on to the quarterfinals for a matchup with either Ela Kaluder and Aureliia Miseviciute of Arkansas or the No. 2 seed in the tournament Melanie Gloria and Tinesta Rowe of Fresno State.
Duke also had one singles player in action on Friday as No. 24 Reka Zsilinszka took on No. 18 Lenka Broosova in the round of 16. Broosova jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first set before Zsilinszka rallied to even it up at 3-3. However, the next two games went to the Baylor star and she would go on to win the set 6-4. The second set was all Duke as Zsilinszka quickly turned a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead. She took the set 6-2 to force a third and deciding set.
The momentum gained from the second set carried on into the early part of the final set for Zsilinszka as she won the first three games. Just as the match looked to be in hand Broosova came back to even the score at 4-4. Trailing 5-4 she then went on to win the next three games to win the match 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. Broosova advances to the quarterfinals while Zsilinszka is eliminated from competition.
“I thought that of all the matches she played here this was the best she hit the ball,” said Ashworth. “She played a little more aggressive and hit the ball cleaner. She served better than she has and at the end Reka had chances to put the girl away but reverting back to hoping the girl would miss. When you get to this level and are playing the top players in the country you have to capitalize on opportunities.”
Zsilinszka ends her freshman season with a 40-6 overall record. Her 40 victories equal the eighth most in school history. She was 9-2 against ranked opponents. Her round of 16 appearance automatically earns her ITA All-America honors, joining Granson and Mang who received All-America for being a top eight seed in doubles and making the quarterfinals. Duke now has 41 All-America honors by 27 different players. The last season the Blue Devils had three players named All-America was in 2003 when Julie DeRoo, Amanda Johnson and Kelly McCain were honored.
“I think having three All-Americas and possibly four when the final rankings come out is great for our program,” said Ashworth. “We don’t have any seniors and it sets the tone going in to next year. It awards them as individuals for the work they have put in.”
Earlier in the day the final ITA Team Rankings were released with Duke coming in No. 9. It was the 17th time in the past 19 seasons that the Blue Devils ended the year ranked in the top-10.