Shavit Kimchi fell down 3-0 early in the first set of her single’s match Saturday against No. 13 UCLA’s Kimmi Hance before turning in one of the more impressive performances the 17th-ranked Blue Devils have seen all season. The Sdey Hemed, Israel, native battled back to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and seal a 4-0 sweep for Duke against the Bruins at the Ty Tucker Tennis Center in Columbus, Ohio.
It was a match that certainly could have come with lots of emotion for head coach Jamie Ashworth’s side, as UCLA eliminated his team in last year’s NCAA tournament. But he was keen on noting that there were no conversations within the locker room regarding last season’s loss.
“They took an opportunity away from us last year,” Ashworth said, “so I think that was in the back of people’s minds, but it wasn’t a topic of conversation.”
Kimchi’s victory came after Ashworth switched her position with junior Emma Jackson, placing Jackson in the No. 1 slot for Saturday’s matches. Nonetheless, he made sure to note that nothing was settled.
“I think it’s an evolving, evolving thing … They’ve both been working hard, and I think it’s just something that we’re just going to keep mixing up,” Ashworth said.
Jackson’s match did not finish, although she did win the first set before heading into a second-set tiebreak when Duke (4-2) sealed the victory on other singles courts.
Alongside Jackson and Kimchi, Ashworth was pleased with Brianna Shvets continuing her strong play from last weekend into this one, winning two convincing sets 6-2, 6-2. The graduate transfer from Princeton has now won five of seven singles matches this season, with one loss and one match ending unfinished.
“She played really well all weekend,” Ashworth said. “We need that emotion. We don’t have an extremely vocal team, and she fits her role on the court and off the court.”
Saturday’s victory against UCLA (2-2) came after a disappointing Friday showing from the Blue Devils against No. 12 Ohio State (4-1). Kimchi, sophomore Katie Codd and graduate Student Iuliia Bryzgalova all lost in straight sets in their singles matches, and doubles play saw two decisive victories for the Buckeyes as well. The loss seemed to spark a fire underneath Ashworth’s squad that he has been looking for all season, however, and he was happy with the response he got from the team against the Bruins.
“Frankly, we didn’t play a great match yesterday,” Ashworth said. “And I was happy that we had the mindset today of, ‘let’s just go out today and have fun and see what we can do,’ not playing with any outside factors or worrying about the score.”
The loss Friday followed a comprehensive loss the weekend prior to No. 14 Auburn, and the Blue Devils easily could have dropped a third in a row facing a tough opponent in UCLA. But Ashworth said he and the team had a necessary conversation following the loss to Ohio State regarding their mentality for the rest of the season, which he thought made a big difference in Saturday’s performance.
After back-to-back weekends facing tough competition, the Blue Devils now rest for three weeks before heading to Miami Feb. 23, then facing off against Florida State two days later in their first weekend of ACC play.
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