Feb. 28, 2009
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Leading No. 6 Duke 3-2 but trailing by a set in the two singles matches remaining on the court, Northwestern valiantly defended its No. 1 ranking with memorable singles performances by Maria Mosolova and Georgia Rose. In the end, however, it was the Blue Devils who narrowly survived the pair of three-hour-long matches, earning a 4-3 win on Saturday at Combe Tennis Center and dealing NU its first dual loss of the season.
The Wildcats face a quick turnaround with a match on Sunday against No. 12 North Carolina, which is set to begin at noon in Evanston.
Exactly two weeks ago, NU bested Duke in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Indoor Team Championship, 4-3, thanks to a win by Nazlie Ghazal in the deciding match. For Northwestern (8-1), Sunday's contest marked its first regular-season loss in nearly 13 months and its first setback against Duke in the last four meetings between the two schools.
In a repeat from their second singles match two weeks ago, Rose and Duke's Ellah Nze needed three sets to settle the question on Sunday. Nze did not surrender a game in the first set and jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the second before Rose found her stroke. She took a 4-3 lead and, with the score tied at five, broke Nze's serve to put herself in the driver's seat, 6-5. But Nze fought her way to a tiebreaker, where she came back from a 5-2 deficit before Rose put her away, 8-6.
Rose continued her stellar play in the deciding set, going up 4-2 before Nze rallied from 40-15 down to break Rose's serve and even the score at four. From there, Nze would take a 6-5 lead before Rose sent the match into a second tiebreaker, where Nze led at the change of ends, 5-1. Rose narrowed Nze's lead to 6-5 but could not complete the comeback as Duke sealed the team victory.
Things were equally as tight at the No. 1 match featuring top-ranked Mosolova and 50th-ranked Mallory Cecil, who brought Mosolova to three sets in their earlier matchup this year. Cecil took a 3-1 first-set lead before Mosolova went ahead 5-3. Cecil pulled even at five-all and eventually pushed the match into a tiebreaker where she took a 5-2 lead and held on to win, 8-6.
The second set was square at two when Mosolova picked up a critical break after being down an Ad point in the game, gaining a 3-2 lead. But she could not pull away as Cecil again sent the set to a tiebreaker, where this time Mosolova stayed alive with a 7-3 win. The Russian native seemed in control in the third, notching a 5-2 advantage, but Cecil refused to quit and eventually took a 6-5 lead with a chance to serve for the match. She did just that only moments before Nze's tiebreaker win against Rose, denying Northwestern's comeback bid.
Earlier in the afternoon, NU took care of business in doubles for the ninth straight match this season, besting the Blue Devils at No. 1 and 2 doubles. Lauren Lui and Rose squared off with Amanda Granson and Melissa Mang in a match where both teams were relentless in defending their serve. With the score tied at six, Lui and Rose finally got the break they were looking for--the first for either team in the match--to open the door for the win. Lui served out the match, finishing with a forehand winner down the middle of the court for the 8-6 win.
At No. 2, Cecil and Jessi Robinson battled to a 5-3 lead against Mosolova and Keri Robison before the Wildcats rallied to even things at five. Northwestern gained a 7-6 edge before falling behind 15-40 in the ensuing game. But with Robison serving, NU came back to send things to deuce, where Mosolova slammed home a winner at the net after a long baseline rally by Robison. With NU holding the advantage, Duke sent a return into the net to clinch the doubles point for the Wildcats. Robison and Mosolova are now 9-2 as a doubles team this season.
At the third doubles spot, NU's Samantha Murray and Elena Chernyakova put their unbeaten 6-0 dual mark on the line against Duke's Ellah Nze and Reka Zsilinszka, a duo that Wildcats beat 9-7 at the ITA Indoor Team Championship. But on this day, the Blue Devils broke Northwestern's first two serves and never looked back, winning by a score of 8-2.
With the team score even at one after a win by Duke's Melissa Mang at fifth singles, Robison managed to put the 'Cats back on top with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Jessi Robinson, breaking the Blue Devil's serve in the decisive game. Mere seconds later, Lui impressively avenged her loss to Duke's Amanda Granson at the Indoor Team Championship by posting a 6-4, 6-4 win over Granson at fourth singles. Things got interesting late in the second as Lui appeared ready to close out the match serving with a 5-2 lead. But Granson rallied from behind to break Lui's serve and then held her own to close the margin to 5-4, at which point Lui was successful in serving out the match.
No. 6 Duke 4, No. 1 Northwestern 3
No. 1: No. 50 Mallory Cecil (DUKE) def. No. 1 Maria Mosolova (NU), 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (3), 7-5
No. 2: No. 24 Ellah Nze (DUKE) def. No. 25 Georgia Rose (NU), 6-0, 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (5)
No. 3: No. 31 Reka Zsilinszka (DUKE) def. No. 43 Samantha Murray (NU), 6-1, 6-2
No. 4: No. 83 Lauren Lui (NU) def. No. 76 Amanda Granson (DUKE), 6-4, 6-4
No. 5: Melissa Mang (DUKE) def. No. 99 Nazlie Ghazal (NU), 6-4, 6-1
No. 6: Keri Robison (NU) def. Jessi Robinson (DUKE), 6-4, 6-3
No. 1: No. 31 Lui/Rose (NU) def. No. 16 Granson/Mang (DUKE), 8-6
No. 2: No. 18 Mosolova/Robison (NU) def. Cecil/Robinson (DUKE), 8-6
No. 3: Nze/Zsilinszka (DUKE) def. Chernyakova/Murray (NU), 8-2
Order of finish:
Singles: (5, 6, 4, 3, 1, 2)
Doubles: (3, 1, 2)