STANFORD, Calif. — Senior Reka Zsilinszka came through in the clutch once again for Duke with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 win against Viet Ha Ngo as she clinched a 4-3 win against Georgia Tech in the third round to propel the Blue Devils to the NCAA quarterfinals.
“It feels really good to clinch the match, we haven’t won a match like that in a long time,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “For Reka to be able to do that after ACC’s was huge. I told her after ACC’s that she would be in that situation again and I can’t tell you how proud I am of them,” Ashworth said.
The match began in thrilling fashion as the doubles point was up for grabs from the beginning as Duke was ahead on two out of the three courts. Georgia Tech began to rally as the No. 18 duo Jillian O’Neil and Caroline Lilley jumped out to a 4-1 lead on court one against the No. 52 pair of Rachel Kahan and Ellah Nze and never looked back. The Yellow Jacket duo picked up an 8-3 win to take the first doubles match with two remaining.
On court two, Nadine Fahoum and Hanna Mar battled with Lynn Blau and Elizabeth Kilborn from Georgia Tech. After the Blue Devils got out to a 2-1 lead, the momentum shifted again in the Yellow Jackets favor. Blau and Kilborn battled back and took a 4-2 lead and dropped just one point throughout the remainder of the match as they clinched the doubles point for Georgia Tech with another 8-3 decision. Mary Clayton and Monica Gorny were tied at 6-6 on court three with Sasha Krupina and Ngo when the doubles point was clinched.
“We played horrible doubles,” Ashworth said. “Fundamental stuff we worked so much on, we just didn’t do a good job on serves and returns and we gave them a lot of free points in doubles, but we did a great job in singles.”
The Blue Devils came out in singles and showed their resiliency by claiming four singles wins that pushed them into the quarterfinals for the second consecutive season, including the match-clinching win by Zsilinszka. Georgia Tech earned the first win singles on court one when O’Neill defeated Fahoum in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.
But Duke didn’t back down.
Kahan, the ACC Freshman of the Year, was first off the courts for the Blue Devils as she earned her 29th consecutive victory this season. Kahan dropped her opponent in straight sets to pick up her 30th win of the season and cut Duke’s deficit in half, 2-1. Nze tied up the overall score at 2-2 with the final straight-set win of the morning, as she defeated Lilley 7-5, 6-0.
The final three matches on courts three, four and six came down to three-set decisions. Clayton gave the Blue Devils a 3-2 lead on court six after battling back to win the final two sets. Clayton dropped the first set 6-2 to Elizabeth Kilborn but bounced back, giving up just four points over the final two sets to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-1. Elizabeth Plotkin was one of three Blue Devils to win their first set to open singles action. Plotkin, the San Francisco native, dropped her second set 6-3, and kept things interesting in the third set when she won three consecutive points to make it 5-4 in the final set. Blau eventually held off Plotkin’s charge in the final set to pick up the win and even the score at 3-3 as the final point came down to Zsilinszka once again.
Zsilinszka traded points with Ngo the whole match and eventually prevailed in wild fashion. Zsilinszka dropped the opening set 6-4, but cruised through the second set with a 6-0 win that evened things at one set apiece. In the final set, Zsilinszka faced a 2-1 deficit, but she eventually evened things at 3-3. The four-year veteran went up a break in the match at 4-3 and never looked back. Zsilinszka went on to claim the final two points to clinch the match for the Blue Devils.
Duke is making its third consecutive appearance in the quarterfinals and 15th overall. The Blue Devils are 6-8 all-time in the quarterfinals.
The Blue Devils will meet UCLA for the second time in the quarterfinals, and it will mark the second consecutive year the two teams have met in the NCAA Tournament. The last meeting between Duke and UCLA came in the Round of 16 in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, where the Blue Devils earned a 4-2 win after Plotkin clinched the match in a third set tiebreaker that sent Duke to the quarterfinals. Duke and UCLA are meeting for the seventh time, with the all-time series tied at 3-3 between the two schools.