DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke women’s tennis team lived up to its top-10 billing and earned an automatic berth to the 16-team ITA Team National Indoor Championship with a 6-1 victory over No. 36 Texas A&M today at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.
Despite the loss, Aggie head coach Bobby Kleinecke was impressed with his team’s performance and how they pushed seventh-ranked Duke more than the final score indicated.
“Overall I’m proud of the team and what they showed today,” Kleinecke said. “The team showed a lot of spunk and fight. They could see that Duke has an excellent team, but there was no give-up in them and they went out and made Duke earn both the singles and doubles. It was fun seeing them compete the way they did.
“Every game was tough. We talked about not just playing the matches, but playing every set, every point and every ball, and we did that. Even the matches where it looks that we got blown out, we played really well and there were a lot of deuce games.”
Duke (4-0) won two of three doubles matches to take a 1-0 lead, but it didn’t come easy for the Blue Devils, who fielded top-40 teams on all three courts.
Duke’s fourth-ranked duo of Nadine Fahoum and Ella Nze held a 7-4 lead at the No. 1 line, but A&M’s Janelle Cuthbertson and Christi Liles were gaining momentum after fighting off two match points at 7-3.
At the same time, A&M’s duo of Morgan Frank and Nazari Urbina had come back from a 4-2 deficit to take a 6-5 lead against 39th-ranked Mary Clayton and Monica Gorny at No. 2, and A&M’s Sheri Olivier and Christi Potgieter were knotted at 6-6 with Duke’s 34th-ranked team of Hanna Mar and Reka Zsilinszka at the No. 3 line.
Duke won two straight games to pull away for the 8-6 win at No. 3, but Frank and Urbina completed a three-game run to finish off Clayton and Gorny, 8-5, at No. 2.
“At No. 3, we were competing and hanging in there,” Kleinecke said, “but Duke came away with the big shots when they needed to, and that is what the better teams do.
“At No. 2, Morgan and Nazari kept plugging and plugging. That is what they do so well. Morgan is know for just finding ways to keep herself in matches, and then the other girls starting making some errors and pressing a little bit. That is another great win for them.”
The Aggies came up short in the end, as Fahoum and Nze then put away the pesky Aggie tandem at the No. 1 line, 8-5, to take the doubles point.
“At No. 1 doubles, that is probably one of the best teams we will face this year,” Kleinecke said. “Christi and Janelle did a great job hanging in there. We were down 7-3 and we made a great comeback and really had a chanced to tie it up. You start tying it up and winning on the other court, you never know what is going to happen.”
Duke jumped out to an early lead in singles, winning the first set on all six courts. A&M continued to battle, but the Blue Devils went on to get straight set wins at the No. 2-6 lines.
“They were off to quick starts on all courts,” Kleinecke said, “but it was good to see our team fight back even though we lost the doubles point and all six first sets. We were still fighting and showing that determination that we are going to need to show throughout the season to have an opportunity to win some matches.”
Rachel Kahan put Duke up, 2-0, with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Cuthbertson at No. 5, and 71st-ranked Elizabeth Plotkin topped Christi Potgieter, 6-2, 6-3 at the No. 3 line to give the Blue Devils a 3-0 lead.
Mar then clinched the winning point for Duke with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Olivier, who nearly tied the second set at 5-5 after trailing 5-1.
No. 49 Nze broke away from a 5-5 second set tie against Liles at the No. 4 position to take a 6-3, 7-5 victory and put Duke ahead, 5-0, and No. 4 Zsilinszka held off Frank, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2.
A&M picked up its only point by winning the last match standing. Fahoum, ranked No. 25, had taken the first set against Urbina, 6-2 at the No. 1 line, but Urbina came back to take the second set, 6-3 to force a 10-point super tiebreaker. Fahoum jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but Urbina won the next eight points to go up, 8-4. Fahoum tied the score at 8-8 before Urbina won back-to-back points to get the victory.
“This Duke team is possibly better than the team that won the national championship two years ago,” Kleinecke said. “Today we showed that we can hit the shots with anybody. We just have to be able to do it at the right times, and we have to be consistent. Duke was consistent with their shots, but we are not that far off. A little more work here and there and tweaking here and there and we are right in there with these people.
“It might sound crazy but this match gives us a little more confidence when you look at where we were a week ago to coming here and defeating Tulsa and playing a pretty good match against Duke. You’re never happy about losing, but this is something we can build on.”
The Aggies (1-2) make their home debut Saturday, Feb. 5, as they play host to non-conference rival LSU. First serve is slated for 1 p.m. at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. The match will be the first of six consecutive home matches for the Aggies.
“It will be fun to play in front of the home crowd and having people holler for us,” Kleinecke said. “This is going to be a fun team for the fans to watch, because of the tremendous fight and grit they show.”
No. 7 Duke 6, No. 36 Texas A&M 1
January 31, 2011
Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center
1. (#17) Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. (#25) Nadine Fahoum (DU), 2-6, 6-3, 1-0 (8)
2. (#4) Reka Zsilinszka (DU) def. (#102) Morgan Frank (TAMU), 6-3, 6-4
3. (#71) Elizabeth Plotkin (DU) def. Christi Potgieter (TAMU), 6-2, 6-3
4. (#49) Ella Nze (DU) def. Christi Liles (TAMU), 6-3, 7-5
5. Rachel Kahan (DU) def. Janelle Cuthbertson (TAMU), 6-1, 6-0
6. Hanna Mar (DU) def. Sheri Olivier (TAMU), 6-2, 6-4
Doubles (Duke wins the point)
1. Fahoum/NZE (DU) def. Cuthbertson/Liles (TAMU), 8-5
2. Frank/Urbina (TAMU) def. Mary Clayton/Monica Gorny (DU), 8-5
3. Mar/Zsilinszka (DU) def. Olivier/Potgieter (TAMU), 8-6
Order of finish
Doubles: 3, 2, 1
Singles: 5, 3, 6*, 4, 2, 1
Texas A&M: (1-2)