URBANA, Ill. – The 15th-ranked Duke women’s tennis team is set to continue its run in the NCAA Tournament Friday as it takes on top-seeded Florida in the Round of 16 at 10 a.m. ET at the Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex/Atkins Tennis Center, hosted by the University of Illinois. The Blue Devils have reached the Round of 16 in 21 of the previous 25 tournaments, including six consecutive trips.
“Our mantra for the past few days has been do not save anything because there may not be a tomorrow,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “When we play on Friday against Florida, we are going to that same thing. They are a great team, really well coached. Coach Thornqvist has done a really amazing job there the last couple of years. They’ll be prepared to play and so will we, but as I said, I’ll take my chances with this group with what we bring every point, every match.”
Duke earned a trip to Urbana after topping No. 37 Ole Miss and No. 17 Texas Tech in the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament May 11-12 in Lubbock, Texas. On Saturday, May 11, Duke cruised past Ole Miss, 4-1, in the opening roundof the NCAA Tournament, conceding only one point after forfeiting a match on court six. The Blue Devils returned to the courts Sunday to take on host Texas Tech, where the squad came back from a 2-3 deficit to edge the Lady Raiders, 4-3. In the match, juniors Hanna Mar and Marianne Jodoin both dropped first sets in their singles matches, but rallied to claim thrilling three-set victories to propel the Blue Devils into the Round of 16.
“We talked about after ACCs, they could have easily quit and said this is not going to happen,” Ashworth said. “But because of the leadership and of the personalities of the girls on this team, they were not going to let that happen. We talked last week about fight or flight, and they definitely wanted to fight.”
Mar, a native of Burr Ridge, Ill., owns a 24-9 singles record this season, including a 10-6 mark against nationally ranked opponents. A two-time All-ACC selection, Mar was listed at No. 29 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll. In addition to Mar, two Blue Devils were tabbed in the poll, including sophomore Ester Goldfeld at No. 56 and senior Mary Clayton at No. 106.
The Blue Devils have had a long tradition of success in the NCAA Tournament, earning bids to 24 consecutive tournaments, while totaling a 57-23 (.713) all-time record in the event, the fourth highest winning percentage in the NCAA. In addition, Duke has reached the NCAA Final Four eight times in program history, highlighted by winning the 2009 NCAA Championship.
Duke and Florida will meet for the 41st time in program history with Florida owning the series lead, 35-5, including a meeting in the semifinals of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. In the match, second-ranked Florida edged the Blue Devils, 4-3, before advancing to the championship match where the Gators captured their second consecutive NCAA Championship after sweeping UCLA, 4-0.
The two teams met earlier this season, when the fourth-ranked Blue Devils played host to the second-ranked Gators, and swept Florida, 4-0, for the first time in program history. The Gators are led by Lauren Embree, who was listed at No. 1 in the ITA singles ranking after posting a perfect 19-0 record in dual matches this season. In addition to Embree, Florida boasts six players in the ITA poll including Sofie Oyen (No. 17), Alex Cercone (No. 52), Brianna Morgan (No. 89), Caroline Hitimana (No. 116), Daniel Collins (No. 117) and Olivia Janowicz (No. 123).
“We played Florida earlier this season and we played a great match, so these are all players we know,” Mar said. “It’s nice to have played them and have confidence that this is a team we can beat. I know the expectation is that we aren’t going to win, being that Florida is the top-seeded team in the tournament, but we are going to go in and just play this match and do the best we can do and maybe something will come of it.”
The Blue Devils are slated to face top-seeded Florida at 10 a.m. ET, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinal Sunday, May 19 to take on the winner of the match between Alabama and California. For live stats, visit the NCAA Tournament Home Page by clicking here.
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