May 20, 2010

Courtesy of GoDuke.com

ATHENS, Ga.-Duke University senior Elizabeth Plotkin mounted a furious third-set comeback to lift the 10th-seeded Blue Devils to a 4-2 victory over No. 7 seed UCLA in the NCAA Women's Tennis Tournament round of 16 this afternoon in Athens, Ga. Plotkin captured the final two sets, including a third-set tiebreak to clinch the victory for Duke.

"This is a huge win for us because it instilled that belief that no matter what happens we have the ability to win," Plotkin said. "We had this same mentality at this time last year and I think this win today really helped us believe again that no matter if we fall behind we can always fight back."

Duke improves to 22-7 and advances to the quarterfinals for the 15th time overall and for the sixth time since 2000. The loss was the Bruins' first since April 3 and drops them to 21-4 overall in 2009-10.

"Today was a great job all the way around," head coach Jamie Ashworth said. "We started great at No. 1 and No. 2 in the doubles point and made them play. Before the match we tell the girls to play to the best of their abilities and not focus on the other teams' strengths, and that is what makes us a hard team to beat."

The Blue Devils took the early 1-0 lead, capturing the crucial doubles point. UCLA grabbed the first match of the day, earning a doubles victory on court three. The pair of Pamela Montez and Carling Seguso defeated Duke's Reka Zsilinszka and Plotkin, 8-5. The Blue Devils quickly evened the score with the No. 2 team of Monica Gorny and Mary Clayton coming away with an 8-5 triumph over Noelle Hickey and Nine Pantic.

Duke clinched the single point as Ellah Nze and Amanda Granson upset the fourth-ranked tandem of Andrea Remynse and Yasmin Schnack, 8-5. The win was the pair's third straight and 14th dual match win of the year and gave the Blue Devils the 1-0 lead heading into singles play.

The Bruins got off to a fast start in singles play, going up one set on four of the six courts. Duke's Clayton, however, cruised to an easy 6-1 win in her opening set, while Zsilinszka battled her way to a 6-3 win in the first set.

Clayton continued to roll, getting off the court first with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Stephanie Hoffpauir on court six. The win is the rookie's 21st of the season and pushed her record to 12-4 from the No. 6 position.

With UCLA up one set on the other four courts, the Blue Devils rallied to force third sets in each of them. The Bruins earned the first three-set victory with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win from Maya Johansson over Duke's Gorny. The loss was Gorny's ninth of the season as she moved to 16-9 dual matches.

Granson answered right back with a crucial 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Pamela Montez on court four. The native of Hilton Head, S.C., captured her team-best 21st win of the year and inched the Blue Devils one step closer to victory.

Trailing 3-1, the Bruins picked up a point from fourth-ranked Schnack at the top singles position. Duke's Nze rebounded from a one-set deficit, but could not get past Schnack, losing 6-0, 6-7, 6-2.

Meanwhile, an incredible match was unfolding on court two between 46th-ranked Noelle Hickey and Duke's Plotkin. Hickey grabbed the first set 6-2, but Plotkin responded by evening the match at one set apiece with a 6-4 win in the second set. In the decisive third set, Hickey raced out to a 4-0 lead before the San Francisco native clawed her way back to tie the set 6-6 and force a tiebreak. Plotkin completed the comeback by taking the tiebreak and clinching the 4-2 victory for the Blue Devils with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 triumph over Hickey.

"She just came out swinging [in the third set]," Plotkin said. "[Assistant Coach] Marc [Spicijaric] had told us to just stay out there and don't pay attention to the score and that was my mindset. I just kept going and going. I was down match points at 5-2, but I knew I needed to stay out there because I didn't want to put all the pressure on Reka [Zsilinszka] to win."

"Every year is a different group of girls, but this year we've been through so much and have a great bond," Zsilinszka said. "We aren't the most talented team, but we work really had and are able to grind through the matches."

Duke returns to action on Saturday, May 22 against No. 2 seed North Carolina at 2 p.m. The Blue Devils fell to the Tar Heels 4-3 during the regular season. This will be the fourth time since 2006 the two squads have met in the NCAA Tournament, but the first time they have squared off this deep in NCAA postseason play.