Feb. 6, 2011
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Combe Tennis Center)
Score: No. 6 Duke 4, No. 23 Northwestern 3
Records: NU (3-3, 1-0 Big Ten), Duke (6-0, 0-0 ACC)
Next NU Event: Friday, Feb. 11 vs. Kentucky Evanston 6 p.m. CT
EVANSTON, Ill. -- It may only have been an early-season nonconference matchup, but Sunday's dual in Evanston between No. 23 Northwestern and sixth-ranked Duke had all the look and feel of one with everything on the line. A young NU lineup pushed a veteran Duke team to the limits, but the visitors managed to win two of the last three singles matches on the courts to escape with a 4-3 victory.
The Wildcats swept a strong Blue Devil doubles lineup that featured three tandems ranked in the top 40 in the country and received singles wins from senior Maria Mosolova and sophomore Brittany Wowchuk in a dual that lasted over four and a half hours.
"We truly played with everything we had today and I'm extremely proud of our efforts," said head coach Claire Pollard. "Our play in doubles has already improved so much since the start of the season and that showed today. Maybe if a few breaks here or there go our way it's a different outcome but that's college tennis sometimes."
Northwestern's team of Mosolova and Belinda Niu got the Wildcats off to an auspicious start at No. 3 doubles, jumping all over Duke's 34th-ranked team of Reka Zsilinskza and Hanna Mar. Leading 7-2 and with the Blue Devils serving, NU put their opponents away on their third match point when Niu picked the perfect ball on which to put away a forehand at the net.
The Wildcats also came out firing at No. 2 where Elena Chernyakova and Brittany Wowchuk had an early 3-1 advantage on Mary Clayton and Monica Gorny and later made it 5-3 with a break of serve. Chernyakova and Wowchuk maintained their lead and, up 7-4, won it on their second match point with a winner by Chernyakova to secure the crucial doubles point.
On the No. 1 court, Northwestern's Linda Abu Mushrefova
and Nida Hamilton
faced a stern test against Duke's fourth-ranked team of Ellah Nze and Nadine Fahoum. The Blue Devils had all the momentum in the early going in taking a 6-2 lead, but with their teammates having already locked up the doubles point, Abu Mushrefova and Hamilton began letting loose and mounting a rally. They tied things at six with a break of serve, won a tight service game and closed out an incredible comeback, 8-6, to give the home team plenty of momentum entering singles.
It was a strange start to singles play, with Northwestern and Duke splitting the outcomes of six first sets, none of which were ever truly competitive. The Blue Devils were able to turn one of those into their first point of the afternoon, a 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 5 by Rachel Kahan over Abu Mushrefova.
The No. 1 singles match saw Mosolova taking on the 25th-ranked Fahoum, who transferred to Duke at the outset of her senior season after three stellar years at Old Dominion. Mosolova and Fahoum had split their two previous meetings, both of which came in the fall season of 2009. But it was all Mosolova on Sunday, as the NU senior cruised through the first set 6-1 and overcame Fahoum's best attempts to slow down the pace of the match, eventually winning the set 6-0.
Duke picked up its second point with a 6-0, 6-3 decision at No. 3 as Elizabeth Plotkin outlasted NU sophomore Kate Turvy.
That left both teams vying to win at least two of the final three matches on the courts to earn the team victory. After falling in the first set of her No. 6 match against Mary Clayton, NU junior Stacey Lee won the first three games of set two and eventually led 5-1, closing the set, 6-3. But Clayton was too strong in the third, winning by a 6-1 score to even the team tally at 2-2.
At No. 2, Wowchuk was tasked with facing two-time singles All-American and fourth-ranked Reka Zsilinszka, but the NU sophomore was unfazed in taking the first set, 6-1. Zsilinszka jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second before Wowchuk rebounded to pull within 5-4, but the Blue Devil eventually managed to force a decisive set.
At that point, Wowchuk turned it up a notch, hitting nearly all of her spots and dominating the action to go up 5-1 in the third and hold on, 6-3. She is now 5-1 in her first season at the No. 2 dual singles spot.
Playing the biggest match of her very young career, the 76th-ranked Belinda Niu nabbed the first set against senior and No. 49 Ellah Nze and played step for step with the Blue Devil in the second, picking up a break down 6-5 to send it to a set tiebreaker. Nze gained an early two-point lead and protected it in the end to win the breaker, 7-5.
Down 1-0 in the third, Niu came back from down 0-40 to hold serve, but was later broken as Nze seized a 4-2 lead. Niu continued to fight every step of the way, staving off a match point to hold serve and close to 5-3. But Nze eked out the next game to wrap up what was a well-contested affair.
Northwestern will look to bounce back in its next outing, a meeting with Kentucky at 6 p.m. Friday in Evanston.
No. 6 Duke 4, No. 23 Northwestern 3
1: #52 Maria Mosolova (NU) def. #25 Nadhine Fahoum (DU), 6-1, 6-0
2: #66 Brittany Wowchuk (NU) def. #4 Reka Zsilinszka (DU), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
3: Elizabeth Plotkin (DU) def. #120 Kate Turvy (NU), 6-0, 6-3
4: #49 Ellah Nze (DU) def. #76 Belinda Niu (NU), 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2
5: Rachel Kahan (DU) def. Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU), 6-2, 6-1
6: Mary Clayton (DU) def. Stacey Lee (NU), 6-1, 3-6, 6-1
1: #30 Abu Mushrefova/Hamilton (NU) def. #4 Fahoum/Nze (DU), 8-6
2: Chernyakova/Wowchuk (NU) def. #39 Clayton/Gorny (DU), 8-4
3: Mosolova/Niu (NU) def. #34 Zsilinszka/Mar (DU), 8-2
Order of Finish:
Singles (5, 1, 3, 6, 2, 4*)
Doubles (3, 2*, 1)
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook! and subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter to receive the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!