Women’s Tennis: Wildcats fall to No. 14 Duke in tight match

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Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Jillian Rooney sets up for a return shot. The junior won her No. 6 singles match after a third-set tiebreak victory.

Robbie Markus, Reporter

Facing a third straight match against a ranked opponent, the Wildcats fought to the end but were ultimately edged out.

In a tension-filled match Sunday, No. 26 Northwestern (1-2) went down against No. 14 Duke (4-0), 4-3. No. 29 Kaitlyn McCarthy won the No. 2 singles match to earn the deciding point for the visiting Blue Devils.

After coach Claire Pollard talked last week about how important a doubles win is for the team, the Cats began the match by fighting hard to pull out the doubles point. Sophomore Maddie Lipp and freshman Lee Or started off the day in strong fashion with a 6-3 win at No. 2 doubles, but juniors Brooke Rischbieth and Manon Peri fell at No. 3 doubles, 6-4.

The point came down to senior Alicia Barnett and sophomore Erin Larner’s No. 1 doubles match. After being down 4-2, the two roared back for  a 6-4 victory to give the Cats the first point of the contest.

Entering the singles matches with a lead gave NU a cushion to play with in the absence of one of the Cats’ regulars, sophomore Alex Chatt, who did not play on Sunday. Pollard credited her team’s preparation for the team’s showing while down a player.

“Without Chatt, I think that speaks volumes for the girls,” Pollard said. “We worked really hard at practice this week, and I think that really paid off.”

Barnett carried her momentum from doubles into her singles, making quick work of her No. 3 singles opponent and putting NU up 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-3 win.

Duke surged back to a 2-2 tie by taking the No. 4 and No. 5 singles matches in three sets from Or and Rischbieth, respectively. Or won the first set 6-4, but she lost the next two sets 6-2, 6-3, while Rischbieth went down in the third set 6-2.

Lipp dropped her match 7-6, 6-3 to put Duke a point away from victory, 3-2, and leave Erin Larner at No. 2 singles and Jillian Rooney at No. 6 singles locked in must-win matches for the Cats.

Larner managed to win the second set 7-5 to force a third set but came up short as she lost the third set 6-4 to give Duke the deciding point in the match.

Although the Blue Devils already had the win, Rooney played the most intense match of the day, winning a third set tiebreaker 7-6 to grab the third point of the day for the Cats.

“I kept telling myself to fight for every single ball, every point,” Rooney said. “Be very resilient, and don’t take any shots off.”

NU has now lost two straight matches against top teams, falling 4-0 to then-No. 11 Oklahoma State on the road. But the tight match was filled with bright spots for the Cats.

“Everyone left everything on the court, and they gave it everything they had,” Barnett said. “I don’t think Duke will ever want to play us again to be honest.”

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