DURHAM, N.C. – No 6 Duke swept the doubles matches and won five of six singles matches in straight sets to defeat No. 25 Texas A&M, 6-1, today at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.
“I didn’t feel like we had the same fight today against Duke that we had against USC,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “That is not taking away from Duke. They are a very good team and they are a team that is going to beat a lot of people this year. They are very talented all up and down the lineup, but I just felt like there were opportunities, in the doubles especially.”
The Aggies lost all three doubles matches for the first time this season despite having early leads on two of the courts. Duke jumped out to an early edge as 16th-ranked Amanda Granson and Melissa Mang defeated Janelle Cuthbertson and Christi Liles, 8-3, at the No. 1 position. Ellah Nze and Reka Zsilinszka then clinched the doubles point for the Blue Devils, riding back-to-back service breaks against Sheri Oliver and Elzé Potgieter to pull away for an 8-6 victory at the No. 3 line.
At the No. 2 line, Stephanie Davidson and Morgan Frank built a 7-4 lead but were unable to close out the victory as Mallory Cecil and Jessi Robinson rallied to win four consecutive games to take an 8-7 lead. A&M came back to win the next game to even the match, but Duke raced to a 7-0 win in the tiebreaker to win 9-8 and complete the sweep.
“We were right there able to win, and we just kind of not just lost but just kind of collapsed,” Kleinecke said. “I think that a big key was that doubles point. For us to win this match or have a shot at winning, we had to come away with that doubles point.”
Olivier provided A&M’s only point and prevented the shutout, reeling off nine straight games to cap a convincing 6-1, 6-0 victory over Robinson at No. 6 singles to even the team score at 1-1.
“Sheri has been playing very well and just stepped up and started dictating play from the first point and just kind of took (Robinson) out of her game,” Kleinecke said about the freshman. “That is the way Sheri has been playing in the matches. In the matches, she is really stepping up.”
Duke managed straight-set wins on each of the five other courts. Granson, ranked No. 76, put the Blue Devils ahead, 2-1, with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Cuthbertson at No. 4, and Mang followed with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Lauren Santacroce at the No. 5 position to put Duke ahead, 3-1.
In a battle of Floridians, 24th-ranked Nze upended Frank, 6-4, 6-3 at the No. 2 line to clinch the win for Duke. No. 31 Zsilinszka followed with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Liles at the No. 3 line to put Duke up, 5-1.
In the final match, 50th-ranked Cecil won the first three games en rout to a 6-3 first-set win against No. 102 Potgieter at the No. 1 line and was ahead, 5-3, in the second set before Potgieter made things interesting by winning two straight games to get within 5-4. The comeback came up short as Cecil ended the rally by winning the next set to close out the match.
“I thought Elzé did a great job with battling through,” Kleinecke said. “She’s been sick and a lot of us have been sick, and I think that played a factor in this match. But Elzé really made a change in her game in the middle of that match when she was down 3-0 in the first set. It is something we have been trying to get her to see all along, and I think it finally clicked and she finally understands, and I think she made a match of it.”
A&M, which remains winless against Duke in four meetings, drops to 3-3 overall. The Blue Devils improve to 8-1.
“You can’t be satisfied, but this is a young group, and it’s a matter of us learning lessons from this,” Kleinecke said. “Our schedule in the beginning half of the year is going to be like this. It is going to be tough, and every day they have to come out and play great teams. It is going to make us tougher as the year goes on.”
The Aggies conclude a two-match road swing tomorrow as they face No. 31 Wake Forest at 11 a.m. (CST) in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Demon Deacons improved to 7-1 with a victory against No. 24 William and Mary earlier today.
“Wake Forest is a very good team,” Kleinecke said. “We beat them 6-1 at our place last year, so they are going to come out with a vengeance to make up for that. It is important that we bounce back. We weren’t looking ahead to the matches but we talked about having two days in a row. Whether you win or you lose this first one, that second one is going to be a tough day to come back on. It is going to be very important that we bounce back tomorrow.”
(6) Duke 6, (25) Texas A&M 1
February 21, 2009
Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center
1. (50) Mallory Cecil (Duke) def. Elzé Potgieter (A&M), 6-3, 6-4
2. (24) Ellah Nze (Duke) def. Morgan Frank (A&M), 6-4, 6-3
3. (31) Reka Zsilinszka (Duke) def. Christi Liles (A&M), 6-3, 6-0
4. (76) Amanda Granson (Duke) def. Janelle Cuthbertson (A&M), 6-1, 6-0
5. Melissa Mang (Duke) def. Lauren Santacroce (A&M), 6-2, 6-1
6. Sheri Olivier (A&M) def. Jessi Robinson (Duke), 6-1, 6-0
Doubles (Duke wins the point)
1. (16) Granson/Mang (Duke) def. Cuthbertson/Liles (A&M), 8-3
2. Cecil/Robinson (Duke) def. Stephanie Davidson/Frank (A&M), 9-8 (0)
3. Nze/Zsilinszka (Duke) def. Olivier/Potgieter (A&M), 8-6
Order of finish
Doubles: 1, 3, 2
Singles: 6, 4, 5, 2*, 3, 1
Texas A&M: 3-3
2009 NCAA Tennis Championships: Texas A&M will host the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships, May 14-25, at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station, Texas. Tickets can be purchased online at 12ManFoundation.com or by calling 1-888-99-AGGIE.