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WTEN: Duke claims ITA Indoors National Championship with 4-3 win over UCLA

Posted February 10, 2014

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The 10th-ranked and seventh-seeded Duke women’s tennis team registered a remarkable come-from-behind, 4-3, victory over fifth-ranked and fourth-seeded UCLA (8-1) on Monday at the Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va.

“We just competed and tried to scrap and find a way to get back into all of these matches,” said Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth. “An hour and a half into that match, it didn’t look great for us at all. After the doubles, we told the girls that you just trust yourself and believe in yourself. No matter what it takes, how long we have to stay out there, let’s try and do it. We were able to do it. Somehow we found a way to battle back in every second set and make it competitive. It easily could have been 4-0.”

The Blue Devils (8-0) claimed their second ITA Indoors title and the first since the 2003 campaign.

“We’ve been close a bunch and this is the second time we’ve won it,” said Ashworth. “This sets the tone for us moving on. We’ll hopefully just keep getting better. We fought so hard last year and I think that carried over to this year’s group and helped us in a match like today. Until we lose the last point of the last match, we’re going to compete.”

Duke opened the match down 3-0 but netted two third set tiebreaking wins to clinch the impressive victory over the Bruins. For the second time in three matches, it came down to Hanna Mar on court three and the senior delivered with a 7-3 tiebreaker win in the second set and a 10-3 tiebreaker victory in the third set, after dropping the first set, 6-3.

“It was amazing,” said Mar on the win. “I knew that everybody was right there with me, so I never felt alone out there. That was an amazing feeling.”

UCLA came out on fire in the match cruising to take the doubles point as top-ranked Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady downed Duke’s Beatrice Capra and Mar, 6-2, on court one and Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips of UCLA took down Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith, 6-1, on the second court.

Duke’s tandem of Annie Mulholland and Chalena Scholl were tied, 4-4, on court three with Courtney Dolehide and Chanelle Van Nguyen of UCLA when the point was clinched. It marked the first time this season the Blue Devils lost the doubles point.

“Well, we talked about whatever happened at the doubles point we needed to put it behind us, because it’s over, it’s done,” commented Mar. “If we win it, we don’t want to be too high because we haven’t won the match and if we lose it, we can’t let ourselves get down because we know and we have confidence in ourselves to fight back and believe that we can still win a match like that. So I think everybody just did a really good job of not letting it affect how they went out and played singles and even when we got down, I think everybody just did a really good job of fighting, cheering for each other and believing in each other, and we slowly worked our way back into the match.”

UCLA continued with the momentum in singles, winning the first set on five of the first six courts and it appeared like the Bruins were going to cruise to a 4-0 win. The Blue Devils would not back down and showed incredible heart as Duke won four second sets to extend the match to tiebreakers.

All this happened after Duke fell down 3-0 as a team with UCLA feeding off the early singles wins on court five and six. Kaitlin Ray of UCLA snapped a nine-match winning streak by Marianne Jodoin on court six, taking a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Harrison collected a 6-3, 6-4 win over senior Rachel Kahan as well to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead.

The Blue Devils were able to get on the board as Smith came back from falling in the first set, 6-3, to win the second, 6-1. In the tiebreaker, Smith got down, 4-2, before going ahead 8-6 and closing out the point on court four with a 10-8 win. A native of Laguna Niguel, Calif., Smith improved to 13-6 overall on the season.

“She really changed what she was doing after the first set,” said Ashworth. “She got caught up in the moment in the first set and played way too quick for her. We talked a lot about controlling the tempo and slowing down. Alyssa slowed down, took her time and really focused on the tempo of the match.”

Collecting Duke’s only straight set win of the day was Goldfeld, who knocked off ninth-ranked Van Nguyen of UCLA, 6-4, 7-5, on court two. Goldfeld, who is out of Brooklyn, N.Y., never trailed in the match as she moved to 15-6 on the year in singles.

Court one featured two of the top three ranked singles players in the nation with top-ranked Anderson of UCLA and third-ranked Capra of Duke, which was a rematch of the October match in which Anderson knocked off Capra, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, at the Riviera All-America Championship.

“I think I was playing well all week and after I lost the first set, I mean Robin was playing really well and I was flat, and I knew that I had to get my energy up in order to beat her,” commented Capra. “She’s a fantastic player so I just kept telling myself to hang in there and move my feet and I think I played a really solid set. In the tiebreak I think we were both really nervous but I was able to go for it and take it. I just really wanted to win this for my team.”

Anderson opened the match in impressive fashion taking the first set, 6-1, but Capra battled back in the second set to win, 6-3. A native of Ellicott City, Md., Capra got off to a 3-1 lead early in the tiebreaker but Anderson fought back to win three straight points to take a 4-3 advantage. Capra made a run of her own and never trailed the rest of the way winning 10-7.

“It’s incredible,” said Capra. “I give all credit to my team. They are such fighters. After losing the doubles point, it was kind of a setback, but to come back from 0-3, this team is incredible and I’m just so happy for every one of them.”

In four matches over the weekend, Capra knocked off top-ranked Anderson of UCLA and second-ranked Jamie Loeb of North Carolina to improve to 19-3 overall.

“They are really good wins but my goal for the week was just to improve,” said Capra. “I haven’t really played that much and I haven’t been able to finish a match yet. Just going in I just wanted to get better every single match and I’m really happy with myself the way I did here. Especially my team. I see everybody fighting and they keep motivating me. My coaches told us just to stay in the present and you will have to want to take it. In the end I really wanted to do well for my team.”

The 49th-ranked Mar worked her magic again on court three, after falling in the first set, 6-3. Mar, who is from Burr Ridge, Ill., jumped out to a 3-2 lead in the second set against 24th-ranked Brady, but the Bruin rookie came back to take a 5-4 lead. Brady was serving for the match with a 5-4 lead, but Mar broke and ended up winning in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-3).

“The one thing with Hanna that you know and you can see from that match is that if you’re going to beat her, you have to beat her,” said Ashworth. “You have to put balls away. You can’t give her opportunities. Even the points that she lost, she was still running around and making Jenny (Brady) hit another ball and another ball. Eventually, you make someone hit enough balls and it’s going to catch up to them.”

In the final tiebreaker of the day to decide the winner, Mar continued with the momentum of winning the second set and cruised to a 10-3 win.

“I hope that we come away with a surge of belief in what the team can do together and I’m really happy and proud of what we accomplished this week,” said Mar. “It was a team accomplishment, you know, everybody together.”

Duke will next head back to Charlottesville, Va., on Feb. 21 to open ACC action against Virginia at 3:30 pm.

“To beat those guys at one, two, three and four (singles) is a heck of an effort by anybody,” said Ashworth. “We played really well when there was pressure on us, which was good to see.”

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