CARY, N.C. – The Duke women’s tennis team’s quest for an 18th Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship was cut short Thursday, as the Blue Devils fell to 11th-seeded Virginia Tech, 4-3., in the opening round of the event. After a gritty comeback from 1-3, the Blue Devils leveled the match at 3-3, but were unable to top the inspired Hokies.
“It was definitely a tough match,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We got off to such a bad start, in doubles we were down 4-0 on one court and 6-2 on another, and I think Virginia Tech started to believe they could win. Obviously only having two doubles teams, it makes it tough when you start like that. We did a good job fighting back. It puts a lot of pressure on our girls, when we start off slow like that.”
After forfeiting the third doubles position, the Blue Devils compounded problems by getting off to a slow start, falling behind on both doubles courts. Junior Marianne Jodoin and sophomore Annie Mulholland fell behind 0-4 to Carol Kahoun and Raluca Mita on court two, but rallied by winning eight consecutive games to claim the match, 8-4.
In the top spot, the tandem of junior Hanna Mar and senior Mary Clayton fell behind 2-6 to Illinca Stoica and Kelly Williford, but were able to break serve twice to level the match at 6-6. After the Hokies held serve, Clayton pinned the corners with a couple of serves to even it up at 7-7. Despite the comeback, Stoica and Williford were too much for the Blue Devils, taking the match, 9-7.
As singles play began, the Blue Devils found themselves down 0-2 after forfeiting the sixth singles position, but responded by taking leads on all five singles courts. After falling in doubles, No. 109 Clayton responded by overwhelming Mita, 6-1, 6-1, on court two. In the fifth position, senior Nicole Lipp fought, but could not slow Kahoun, falling, 6-1, 6-1.
With the Blue Devils down 1-3, 27th-ranked Mar kept the match alive by topping No. 125 Stoica, 6-0, 6-3, in the top position. Just moments later, Mulholland closed out her match against Isel Martinez-Marcos on court three, 6-4, 6-2, to level the match at 3-3.
In her match, Mulholland jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but dropped a break allowing Martinez-Marcos to even the match at 4-4. Despite the setback, Mulholland broke serve, then closed out the set with a number of powerful forehands. In the second set, Mulholland dispatched of Martinez-Marcos, 6-2.
With the match level at 3-3, all eyes turned to court four where Jodoin and Williford traded games early before finding themselves level at 5-5. After Williford was unable to hold serve, Jodoin closed out the set with a couple of well-placed serves. In the second set, Williford went up a break early and jumped out to a 4-1 lead, and took the set, 6-3.
In the third set, the two players traded games before Williford broke serve to take a 3-2 lead, and was able to hold serve to take a 5-3 edge. Despite fending off match point, Jodoin was unable to slow Williford, falling 6-3 to clinch the match for Virginia Tech. The loss was the first for Jodoin since Nov. 4, 2012, a streak of 22 consecutive wins.
“We competed in the singles and did a good job fighting back, but it’s too bad that we have to end in the first round,” Ashworth said. “We just have to regroup and work hard over the next two weeks. I think that some of our losses have really shaken our confidence, so we just need to find a way to get some confidence and really start believing in each other. It’s not a stroke thing, or anything like that, we just need to find our confidence.”
The Blue Devils will return to the courts for the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament May 10-11.