For the second straight day at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Team Indoors, the 10th-ranked and seventh-seeded Duke women’s tennis team came through in tiebreakers as the Blue Devils downed eighth-ranked California, 4-2, to advance to the finals at the Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va.
Duke (7-0) will make its fifth National Team Indoors final appearance and the second out of the last three years. The opponent for the Blue Devils will be fourth-seeded and fifth-ranked UCLA, who defeated Northwestern, 4-0, in the semifinals. Monday’s championship match will start at 11:00 a.m.
“We’ve played them [California] here a couple times,” said Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We played them in the finals of the NCAAs a couple years ago. It was a battle there. We know that they’re going to come out and swing. They’re big hitters. Our goal coming into this weekend was to try to make a statement about where our program is. We’ve really felt like we were better than where we were [in the preseason rankings].”
Continuing its stellar play in doubles, the Blue Devils came out on the second court and took a 2-0 lead behind solid play from Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith. California’s Denise Starr and Kelly Chui would not fold easily as the duo won three straight games to take a 3-2 lead. Duke responded by winning four consecutive games to take the match, 6-3.
California’s tandem of Lynn Chi and Alice Duranteau came back from being down 4-3 to Duke’s Annie Mulholland andMarianne Jodoin to win court three, 7-5.
The doubles point came down to Duke’s Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar up against Maegen Manasse and Anett Schutting of the Bears. The Blue Devils came out and opened a 3-1 lead, but California came back to take a 5-4 advantage. Capra and Mar won two straight points to take a 6-5 lead, but the Cal duo came back to even the score, 6-6. In the tiebreaker, the Blue Devils would never trail en route to winning 7-4 and giving Duke a 1-0 advantage.
The victory for Capra and Mar was their fourth straight and improved their overall record to 7-2 on the year.
Coming off a victory on Saturday against second-ranked Jamie Loeb of North Carolina, third-ranked Capra never trailed against 15th-ranked Denise Starr of California and put the Blue Devils ahead 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-2 win on court one. A product of Ellicott City, Md., Capra moved to 18-3 on the season.
California responded by winning the next two points to even the score, 2-2. On court five, Klara Fabikova knocked offRachel Kahan, 4-6, 6-3, 10-3 and 16th-ranked Zsofi Susanyi defeated Smith, 6-2, 7-5 on court four.
The final three singles matches came down to tiebreakers on court two, three and six.
Mar, a senior out of Burr Ridge, Ill., clinched the victory on Saturday over third-ranked North Carolina and netted a 6-3, 3-6, 10-4 win on Sunday against 95th-ranked Chi on court three. The 49th-ranked Mar improved to 4-0 in dual match action with the win.
“With the way the format is set up, it favors the person that wins the second set,” commented Ashworth. “To come back and put the second set out of your mind right away is a tough thing to do. Hanna does a really good job of not really playing to the score. She can compartmentalize really well. We talk about that with her and all the other girls all the time, just gather points. We’re just trying to get as many points as we can.”
Featuring an eight-match win streak entering Sunday, Jodoin dropped the first set, 6-1, to 31st-ranked Manasse and fell down 2-1 in the second set before getting hot. A product of Varennes, Quebec, Jodoin won five out of the next six games to win the second set, 6-3. In the tiebreaker, Jodoin built an early lead and ended up pulling out an 11-9 win to clinch the Duke victory, 4-2.
“Their singles are so good especially at the bottom of the lineup,” said Ashworth. “Maegan has been playing great all weekend and really since she’s been in school. Marianne hung in there after losing the first set. Even through the doubles, we had to battle.”
Goldfeld, who is ranked 45th out of Brooklyn, N.Y., split the first two sets with 26th-ranked Schutting and was trailing 4-3 in the tiebreaker when the match was clinched.
Other finals appearances for Duke were in 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2012. The Blue Devils claimed the 2003 title with a 4-3 win over Florida.
“We’ve historically played pretty well here,” said Ashworth. “No matter who we play, it’s going to be a tough match. UCLA has a great lineup all the way through in singles and doubles.”