ATHENS, Ga. — Third-seeded Duke entered one of the most hostile environments in which it has played all season, but rallied back from a lost doubles point for the third time in its past five matches to defeat sixth-seeded Georgia, 4-2, in the quarterfinals of the DI championships on Saturday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
The victory is Duke’s 18th in a row, which ties a school record.
“Obviously, it was a great match,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “To play Georgia here in the NCAA tournament was a great opportunity and experience. I talked with USC men’s head coach Peter Smith and he told me it’s like a right of passage to win an NCAA tournament match against Georgia here. I kept thinking about that all day.”
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Playing in front of a crowd of 1,511 spectators, the afternoon began with doubles play, and the Bulldogs, feeding off the energy of the home crowd, grabbed a quick, 8-1 win on court No. 1 as the 46th-ranked duo of Nadja Gilchrist and Kate Fuller upset the Blue Devils’ 21st-ranked tandem comprised of junior Mary Clayton and freshman Ester Goldfeld.
Despite the disappointing outcome in the No. 1 doubles match, Duke (29-2) battled it out on court No. 2, as the 17th-ranked unit of sophomore Rachel Kahan and freshman Beatrice Capra outlasted Chelsey Gullickson and Lauren Herring, 8-6. Capra and Kahan improved to 21-5 overall and 17-2 playing at the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, senior Monica Gorny and sophomore Hanna Mar could not pull away from Maho Kowase and Lilly Kimbell on court No. 3, despite leading 4-3 early on, and eventually fell to the Bulldog duo 8-6, as Georgia (24-5) claimed the doubles point and a 1-0 lead in the overall match.
Singles play could not have been more interesting, as four of the six contests went into three sets. Goldfeld, ranked 110th, got things started when she tied the match at 1-1 with a convincing 6-2, 7-5 victory against Gilchrist in the No. 2 singles match. Goldfield, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native, improved to 25-9 overall on the season, and 17-4 in dual matches.
Georgia responded a little while later however, as the seventh-ranked Gullickson scored a 6-3, 6-2 upset against second-ranked Capra in the No. 1 spot. The loss ended Capra’s streak of 16 consecutive victories which is the third-longest run by a freshman in program history.
The momentum shifted back in favor of the Blue Devils when freshman and 92nd-ranked Monica Turewicz fought off a tough opponent in Kimbell in three sets, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in the No. 6 spot to tie up the overall match once again at two apiece. The win was Turewicz’s 14th in a row, and improved her overall record to 31-3 for her rookie campaign.
Duke finally broke through on court No. 3 when Mar, the nation’s 59th-ranked player, finished off a hard-fought three-set victory against No. 58 Kowase, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to put the Blue Devils ahead, 3-2. The win was Mar’s 30th of the season and moved her mark to 17-4 in dual matches.
It all came down to Kahan, ranked 85th, on court No. 4, who was in arguably one of the most entertaining and emotion-filled matches of the evening against the 70th-ranked Herring. Kahan took the first set, 6-2, but Herring responded with a 6-3 triumph in the second set.
Trailing 5-3 in the third set and facing match point with Herring serving, Kahan countered to win the game, and eventually break Herring at five-all. The match moved into a decisive tie-break, and Kahan shouting, “Let’s go!” and “Come on!” at the top of her lungs after every point she won, eventually pulled out the 7-5 tie-break and 7-6 three-set victory to clinch the match and advance Duke to Monday’s semifinals.
“We just go one point at a time,” Kahan said in regards to playing in the tie-breaker. “It’s just like any other point. I just tried to play each point to the best of my ability. That’s the only thing that you can do.”
Ashworth also expressed his feelings on the outcome of the match.
“We just played a hell of a match in singles,” Ashworth stated. “I thought we played good in doubles too. We just kept fighting and fighting. I couldn’t be prouder of the group of girls we have.”
Duke will take on second-seeded and reigning national champion Florida (25-1) on at 1 p.m. Monday in the program’s first semifinal appearance since 2009. The match will be played on the McWhorter Courts at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.