DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke women’s tennis team makes its seventh NCAA Team Championship Round of 16 appearance in the past nine years on Thursday, May 17 against Northwestern (23-5) at 9:00 a.m., inside the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Duke (25-3), the No. 3 overall seed, advanced to the final 16 of the NCAA event after capturing the Durham Regional last weekend. The Blue Devils defeated Furman 4-0 and No. 33 Oregon 4-2. Northwestern, the No. 14 overall seed, also won its regional last weekend, defeating Buffalo and Kansas State both by the score of 4-0.
“We needed that,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We needed that experience to win a tougher match. We had that tough match at ACC’s, but we came out on the wrong end of it. I think we grew from it. We had a really good practice this morning and are going to have a couple of more good practices before we play on Thursday.”
Should Duke defeat the Wildcats on Thursday morning, it would be the program’s 19th trip to the quarterfinals, and first since 2014.
Series vs Northwestern
Duke is 20-5 all-time against Northwestern, including two victories in 2017. It will be the 17th straight season the two teams have met at least once, dating back to the 2002 season. Last season, the Blue Devils topped the Wildcats 4-3 on consecutive weekends. That extended Duke’s winning streak to 11 straight matchups. The two programs have met once before in the NCAA Tournament. That meeting also came in the Round of 16 during the 2004 tournament, a match that Duke won 4-1. Four Blue Devils have never lost a singles match against the Wildcats. Kaitlyn McCarthyis 3-0, Meible Chiand Rebecca Smallerare both 2-0 and Ellyse Hamlinis 1-0. Duke players faced Northwestern players on five occasions during the fall season. In singles, McCarthy beat Alex Chatt while Erin Larner topped Ema Lazic, both at the Duke James Bonk Invitational. At the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships, McCarthy and Hamlin topped Larner and Lee Or in doubles, while Samantha Harrisand Kelly Chenupset then No. 5 ranked Chatt and Maddie Lipp. Finally, Harris and Chen beat Larner and Lipp to open competition at the ITA Fall Nationals.
The Wildcats are in the Round of 16 for the first time since 2013. Northwestern has three ranked singles players and three ranked doubles tandems. The pair of Larner and Lipp are ranked No. 4 in doubles and have amassed a 30-4 record this season. Chatt and Or are ranked No. 37 and Or and Larner are No. 67. In singles, Larner leads the way at No. 38, with Lipp (No. 78) and Or (No. 117) also ranked. Lipp and Larner pace Northwestern with 21 and 20 singles wins, respectively.
“Northwestern is good,” Ashworth said. “They’re much improved from where they were two or three months ago. We had two really tough matches with them last year, actually back to back, twice in the same week. Every match then was tight. I expect another battle on Thursday. They’re well-coached. They’re a little bit older, they have some seniors. Northwestern will definitely be ready to play.”
Duke in the Round of 16
The Blue Devils have an all-time record of 18-6 in the round of 16. Last season, Duke fell to North Carolina 4-0. Duke’s last win in the round came in 2014 when the Blue Devils topped Clemson 4-1.
Five ACC teams reached the Round of 16 this season. Along with Duke, No. 2 seed North Carolina, No. 4 seed Georgia Tech and No. 16 seed Miami all advanced out of their home regionals. Florida State upset No. 9 seed Florida to reach Winston-Salem as well. The ACC’s five teams are the most by any conference, followed by four from the SEC.
Blue Devils in the NCAA Team Championship
Duke has seven players who have competed in NCAA Team Championship action. A closer look at the seven’s singles and doubles record during the NCAA’s premier team event:
It's a different mentality,” Ashworth said. “We’ve been talking about not only valuing everything, but that everything we do in our preparation and also in our play, has a purpose. Every shot has a purpose. Every drill we do has a purpose. When we’re playing our matches, everything we do has a purpose. I think we’re excited to play. I told them to have fun and this is a great time of year where we’re one of only 16 teams still practicing as a team. They realize that and are looking forward to getting there and playing.”
Chen on the Duke Freshman Wins Chart
With her two wins over last weekend, Chen now has 37 singles wins on the season, the fourth-most by a Duke freshman. Her 26 doubles wins are tied for 10th among Duke rookies. The rookie from Cerritos, Calif., already became the first Duke freshman to go 14-0 in the ACC and was named ACC Freshman of the Year. She is currently on a 19-match winning streak, the second longest by a Duke freshman.
Blue Devils in the Singles and Doubles Tournament
Duke will have five Blue Devils in the individual NCAA Tournaments. In singles, Chi earned a bid for the second straight year while Harris and Chen will make their first career appearances. In doubles, McCarthy and Hamlin will compete as will Harris and Chen. The singles tournament gets started on Wednesday, May 23 while the doubles bracket gets underway the next day.
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