DURHAM, N.C. - In a battle to decide sole possession of first place atop the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) standings, Duke utilized one of its best team performances of the season, as the third-ranked Blue Devils shut out ACC rival and fifth ranked North Carolina, 4-0, in front of a jam-packed crowd Thursday afternoon at Ambler Tennis Stadium.
"We came out with a lot of energy - a lot of emotion," said head coach Jamie Ashworth. "It's, by far, one of the most complete matches we've played. They were really focused. They played with a lot of confidence."
Duke (20-2, 9-0 ACC) opened the afternoon strong as sophomore Hanna Mar and freshman Annie Mulholland collected a quick 8-2 victory over Caroline Price and Gina Suarez-Malaguti in the No. 3 spot. The win improved the tandem's record to 16-6 overall, 11-4 in dual matches and 5-2 in ACC play.
The Blue Devils followed up with a huge upset in clinching the doubles point, as the 27th-ranked combo comprised of junior Mary Clayton and freshman Ester Goldfeld outlasted the nation's second-ranked team of Lauren McHale and Shinann Featherston, 8-4, in the No. 1 spot. The loss was snapped the Tar Heel duo's 10-match win streak, and marked just their third setback of the year.
"When they play smart, and they play disciplined and they keep teams off balance, they're really good," Ashworth said of Clayton and Goldfeld's performance. "That's something we've really been stressing with them in practice, and not giving up a lot of free points. When they do that, they can compete with anyone in the country."
Duke sealed the doubles sweep in the No. 2 spot when freshman Beatrice Capra and sophomore Rachel Kahan, ranked 28th in the country as a tandem, defeated 47th-ranked Haley Hemm and Tessa Lyons, 8-5.
Even after the impressive doubles performance, Ashworth wanted to see more out of the team.
"In between the doubles and the singles, we talked about making an impression on the people in the stands," Ashworth commented. "I told them, 'Maybe there's a 12-year-old girl here who has never seen you play before. What is her impression of you going to be when she leaves here? When she leaves this match, what is she going to think about Duke Women's Tennis? What is she going to think about you as a player?' I think they took that to heart a little bit, and they wanted to play with passion, energy and that determination we really need."
Singles play began with another quick start for the Blue Devils, as freshman and 92nd-ranked Monica Turewicz notched a convincing 6-0, 6-2 victory over Lyons in the No. 6 spot. The Lake Forest, Ill., native improved her record to 23-3, 13-3 in dual singles and 8-1 in ACC matches.
Ranked second in the nation and playing in the No. 1 spot, Capra made easy work of the 34th-ranked McHale, 6-0, 6-1, running her unbeaten streak to 10 straight. The Ellicott City, Md., native owns a 22-3 overall mark, a 16-1 record in dual singles and a perfect 7-0 ledger in ACC play.
Mar, the nation's 51st-ranked player, followed her fine doubles performance with a 6-1, 6-3 win in the No. 4 spot over Suarez-Malaguti to clinch the overall match. Mar, a Burr Ridge, Ill., native, ranks second on the team with 25 singles wins this season.
"I'm really, really proud of the team and how we did today," said Mar. "I thought we played really well, and obviously this was an important match against Carolina. I think we stepped up to the plate and we brought some of our best tennis, and I'm so proud of the way we played."
After reaching the 20-win plateau for the fifth straight season, Duke will return to action Saturday, Apr. 14 at 12 p.m., when it hosts Boston College.
#3 Duke 4, #5 North Carolina 0 Apr. 12, 2012 at Durham, N.C. (Ambler Tennis Stadium)