DURHAM, N.C. – Coming off a 7-0 home victory over Dartmouth on Sunday, the No. 2 Duke women’s tennis team hits the road once again for ACC play, traveling to Wake Forest and Virginia. The Blue Devils head to Winston-Salem for a 4:00 p.m. first serve on Friday and end the trip in Charlottesville on Sunday with a 12 noon contest.
“We’re excited to play against two good teams, teams that are in the top 25 of the country,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “They’re always good matches, good places to play, at Wake Forest and Virginia and always good matches for us. We’re looking forward to be out and compete against good, solid competition.”
Duke and Wake Forest are scheduled to meet for the 65th time in program history, with the Blue Devils owning a 60-4 advantage over the Demon Deacons. Duke has only matched up with North Carolina (82 times) and Virginia (66 times) more often. 22 to start then 19. Starting with the inaugural meeting in 1976, Duke won 41 of the first 42 matchups, with Wake Forest’s only win coming on March 30, 1989. Duke has won the last 11 meetings between the two schools, dating back to April 11, 2007. A year ago, the Blue Devils beat the Demon Deacons 5-2 on April 13 in Durham. Samantha Harris and Kaitlyn McCarthy both have a pair of wins against the Demon Deacons in dual matches while Ellyse Hamlin has one.
No. 12 Wake Forest, which will be playing its first home game since Jan. 20, has an 8-3 overall record, but dropped its first conference match. The Demon Deacons are led by Emma Davis, who has a 16-6 overall record and is 9-1 in dual matches. Davis checks in at No. 33 on the ITA singles rankings and is 8-1 at the No. 1 position. Also ranked in the ITA poll is Eliza Omirou at No. 63. Omirou is 5-3 at the No. 2 position and 1-0 at No. 1. Davis and Chandler Carter are the 31st-ranked doubles pair and are a perfect 9-0 this season. The duo is 2-0 at the No. 1 position and 5-0 at No. 2 in dual matches.
The Cavaliers and Devils will meet for the 67th time in program history Sunday, with Duke holding a 59-7 advantage in the all-time series. Duke’s 59 wins over Virginia trail only its 60 over Wake Forest and are just ahead of the 57 over NC State. Duke dominated Virginia between 1981 and 2005, as the Blue Devils won 32 straight meetings. The two teams are even in the last six matchups, winning three apiece. Last season, Duke won 6-1 on March 24 in Durham. Harris is 3-1 in dual matches against Virginia while Hamlin is 2-0 and Meible Chi is 1-0.
No. 24 Virginia enters the weekend with a 7-2 overall record and is at the top of the conference standings after winning its first two matches. The Cavaliers are riding a five-match winning streak, all at home. Rosie Johanson is the highest ranked Cavalier, checking in at No. 67 in the ITA singles poll. She is 15-6 on the season and is 3-2 in the No. 1 position. Johanson teams with Meghan Kelley for Virginia’s best doubles tandem, ranking 14th in the ITA poll. Johanson and Kelley are 21-1 on the season, including 7-0 in dual matches and 6-1 against nationally ranked opponents.
“There’s always more familiarity in the conference,” said Ashworth. “Virginia has had a lot of success recently, they’ve won the ACC tournament two out of the last four years, I think it’s more familiarity with the players rather than the program. Both teams know we know fairly well. Wake a little bit more because they’re a regional team while Virginia not quite as much. The girls all know each other. It’s more about execution than anything else. We’ve worked this week on cleaning up some things, especially with our doubles play. Trying to be more precise with our doubles, up our communication level in doubles. In conference play, it can make a big difference because of the familiarity level of both teams. However familiar we are with them they are with us too. We have to make sure we execute and do little things well.”
With a win over N.C. State’s Anna Rogers in Duke’s ACC opener, Harris now has 30 conference wins in her Duke career, making her just the fourth Blue Devil to reach that mark. With wins against Wake Forest and Virginia, Harris would move past Melissa Mang for third at Duke all-time. Harris has been an All-ACC selection during her first three seasons and is has the second highest conference win total among Duke freshmen.
Chi is off to a perfect start in dual matches, winning her first nine matches. She won her first seven matches at the No. 5 position and has moved up a spot to No. 4 to win her past two. Chi is on a 13 match winning streak, dating back to a loss in the ITA Carolina Regional Championships in October.
Harris, Hamlin and Kelly Chen all have just one setback in dual matches. Chen paces the trio with a 7-1 record, Hamlin is 6-1 and Harris is 4-1. All three losses have come to nationally ranked opponents.
Duke is unbeaten in the No. 5 position with three different players handling it so far. Chi has a 7-0 record there while Hamlin and Hannah Zhao have each won once.
Duke matched up with a pair of players from both Wake Forest and Virginia during the fall season. Hamlin defeated Wake Forest’s Anna Ulyashchenko at the Carolina ITA Regional Championships while Ema Lazic fell to Omirou at the same event. Chi beat Virginia’s Teodora Radosavljevi and Rebecca Smaller beat Lizzie Baker, both at the Kitty Harrison Invitational.
The Blue Devils check in at No. 2 on the Oracle/ITA ledger. It is the highest Duke has been ranked since January 2015. Duke has two doubles tandems ranked among the ITA’s top six. McCarthy and Hamlin check in at No. 3 while Harris and Chen are No. 6. Four Blue Devils are ranked among the top 87 of the singles poll. Harris leads the pack, ranking No. 10. Chen has moved up to the highest ranking of her brief collegiate career at No. 22. Chi ranks at No. 47 and McCarthy rounds out the quartet at No. 87.
“It just shows where we are today,” Ashworth said. “It’s not something we’ve really talked about as a team. The really only important ranking is the last one, where we finish. I think it’s a good gauge where we are at the end of February, but we have a long way to go and a lot of improvement we can make. I think that it’s something to keep building on, not something that we’re trying to protect.”