CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – In their first ITA National Team Indoor Final 16 appearance in more than a decade, the No. 23 ranked Ole Miss women’s tennis team had everyone talking as they took the top seed, No. 3 ranked Duke, down to the wire before falling in a four hour 4-3 match here Friday at the Boar’s Head Sports Club.
The Rebels will face No. 14 ranked Clemson Saturday at 9 a.m., while Duke advances to the quarterfinals to play Michigan.
Duke (6-0) came in as the obvious favorite, but the Rebels (4-2) gave the Blue Devils all they wanted for four hours.
For the third time in four matches, the decision came down to No. 6 singles and sophomore Vivian Vlaar. Vlaar was the queen of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, rallying to clinch the team’s spot in Charlottesville, and she almost did it again. Down a set (6-3) and with the overall match squared at 3, Vlaar won a second set tiebreaker 7-6(2) against Duke’s Annie Mulholland. Mulholland broke to start the final set, but Vlaar was able to break back for 3-3, before Mulholland won the final three games to clinch the win.
“We played well against a great team, and had opportunities to win,” head coach Mark Beyers said. “I think we definitely turned some heads today, we just came up a little short. Duke is ranked No. 3 in the nation for a reason, but it was a great team effort. We can be proud of that. If we can get a little more consistent in the lineup, we’ll be in great position for the rest of the year. We look forward to playing another great team tomorrow.”
For the first time this year, the Rebels fell behind early by losing the doubles point. Duke won 8-1 at No. 2 doubles and 8-2 at No. 3 to take a 1-0 lead. The Rebels led the No. 1 match 7-4 when the point was clinched.
In singles, Duke won three first sets, as did the Rebels. In one of those matches where the Blue Devils won the first set, Ester Goldfeld defeated Erin Stephens 6-2, 7-5 to make it 2-0. Stephens had a chance to win the second set up 5-2, but as Beyers said, “We got a little nervous there and Goldfield started playing better.”
Moments later, senior Abby Guthrie put the Rebels on the board with an impressive 6-2, 6-2 win over 66th-ranked Mary Clayton at No. 5 singles. Freshman Julia Jones played a solid match defeating Duke’s Rachel Kahan 6-4, 6-4 at No. 4 singles to even the match.
Duke regained the lead when Beatrice Capra, the No. 3 ranked player in the nation, handed 12th-ranked senior Kristi Boxx a 6-4, 6-1 loss at the top spot. Capra made it to the third round of the U.S. Open this past year and was the No. 1 recruit coming in this year.
Sophomore Caroline Rohde-Moe , ranked No. 54, remained undefeated at No. 2 singles and squared the match with a 6-3, 6-4 win against 38th-ranked Hanna Mar, setting up the final outcome on court six.
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