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DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 3 Duke women’s tennis team is set to open its dual match slate Saturday when it hosts William & Mary at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center at 6 p.m. The Blue Devils kicked off the 2013 season at the Hawaii Invitational Jan. 9-10, where they ran the table with a perfect 17-0 record. However the match with William & Mary will be the first dual match in a very competitive schedule in which the Blue Devils face 11 teams ranked in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings of 2012.
“We are excited to play,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. We had some good matches last week in Hawaii to get ready, but our first team match is always an exciting thing. Obviously we haven’t been in this format since May of last year and we’re excited to kind of pick up where we left off last year and get rolling and see where we stand and what things we need to work on.”
Duke is led by junior Hanna Mar, who is currently ranked No. 10 in the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) singles rankings. Mar completed the tournament portion of the schedule with a 14-3 singles record, and 11-1 tally in doubles action while grabbing three tournament victories at the Duke Fab4 Invitational (singles) and the ITA Carolina Regional Championship (singles and doubles).
The match on Saturday will mark the first time that junior Marianne Jodoin competes in a team atmosphere as a Blue Devil. Jodoin, a native of Varennes, Quebec, transferred from Fresno State after garnering Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Player of the Year twice, WAC Freshman of the Year and WAC All-Tournament Team in both singles and doubles. Jodoin owns a 12-6 record in singles entering the dual match schedule, as well as a 5-3 mark in doubles.
William & Mary kicked off its season Tuesday with a doubleheader against Richmond and UMBC. The Tribe cruised to easy 6-1 victories in both matches, and are led this season by junior Maria Belaya, who tallied a 6-4 record in the fall, and junior Jeltje Loomans, who missed much of the fall due to injury. In doubles, the duo of Belaya and Loomans are currently ranked No. 3 in the ITA National Rankings after a fall in which they won the Atlantic Region Doubles Championship and downed three teams currently ranked in the top 12 in the ITA poll.
The Blue Devils have experience against the third-ranked duo, seeing them last season when the tandem of Ester Goldfeld and Mary Clayton topped Belaya and Loomans, 8-6, en route to a 7-0 sweep of the Tribe. Earlier this fall, Duke again faced the duo when No. 43 Annie Mulholland and Goldfeld fell to Belaya and Loomans, 8-2, in the championship match of the Duke Fab4 Invitational.
In Ashworth’s time at the helm of the program, the Blue Devils have yet to lose a home opener, tallying a perfect 15-0 record during his tenure in Durham. The last time the Blue Devils lost a season opener in Durham, N.C., came Mar. 23, 1994, when Duke fell to Texas, 6-2.
“I think our girls do a good job of pushing each other in practice and really utilizing each other in practice to get better,” Ashworth said. “I think it is a credit to the girls that we have and the leadership that we have on the team rather than myself. I think they take the match preparation seriously and they do what they are supposed to do over break, so when we come back and start playing matches, we don’t have to do two weeks of basic conditioning and stuff so that is a big credit to them.”
The Blue Devils and the Tribe will meet on Saturday for the 29th time in program history, with Duke leading the all-time series 22-6. The Blue Devils are currently riding a five match winning streak over the Tribe dating back to Feb. 16, 2006, when the Tribe edged out the Blue Devil 4-3 in Williamsburg, Va. The two squads last met last season with the third-ranked Blue Devils sweeping the No. 56 Tribe, 7-0.
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