Miami women’s tennis narrowly falls to No. 5 Duke in ACC semifinals

Third-year sophomore Maya Tahan prepares to rally a ball against Columbia singles opponent Melissa Sakar at the Miami Open on Friday, April 1, 2022.
Third-year sophomore Maya Tahan prepares to rally a ball against Columbia singles opponent Melissa Sakar at the Miami Open on Friday, April 1, 2022. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

One day after sneaking past Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship quarterfinals, the Canes found themselves on the other end of a tightly contested match Saturday afternoon. Second-seeded Duke survived sixth-seeded Miami, 4-3, at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College in the semifinals.

“Good tennis match. Obviously, not perfect,” Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said. “They played a little better than us in the big moments and that’s why they walk away with the match. I give credit to Duke. They played a great match, they played aggressive, they played well when they were down and they deserved the victory.”

No. 13 Miami (17-5, 10-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) dropped the doubles point for the second straight match.

No. 27 Chloe Beck and Ellie Coleman struck first, registering a dominant 6-2 decision over freshman Tatyana Nikolenko and third-year sophomore Maya Tahan.

In a top-35 showdown, fourth-year junior Daevenia Achong and fifth-year senior Eden Richardson, together ranked No. 19, equalized, besting No. 31 Karolina Berankova and Georgia Drummy, 6-3.

On Court 3, the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (18-3, 11-2 ACC) sealed the point, as Margaryta Bilokin and Eliza Omirou recorded a 6-3 result over sophomores Audrey Boch-Collins and Isabella Pfennig.

In singles, Miami responded by taking five opening sets and the first two matches to gain a 2-1 lead.

First, No. 80 Pfennig comfortably beat No. 124 Jackson, 6-3, 6-2, to level the score. No. 51 Richardson avenged Friday’s loss in spectacular fashion, rallying to defeat No. 8 Beck, who was previously 19-0 on the season by an impressive 6-1, 7-5 margin. Richardson won four games in a row after trailing 3-5 in the second set, fending off three set points in the 10th game for her second top-10 win of the year.

Duke quickly equalized thanks to Ellie Coleman’s 6-4, 6-1 triumph over Nikolenko. After dropping the first four games, she took 12 of the next 13 to secure the victory.

Moments later, the Blue Devils regained the lead, 3-2, as No. 14 Drummy bounced back from her past two losses to No. 32 Achong with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Boch-Collins tied things up at 3 with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Bilokin. The sophomore gave up a 5-2 lead in the second set after Bilokin took three straight games but managed to win the next two to help the Hurricanes stay alive.

“Look, we had some really bright spots in our match some. Eden played the best match I’ve seen her play, better than when she played Emma Navarro,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “Bella was just crushing it. This isn’t because they won. [Achong] played a solid match, let the match get away from, got a little complacent at the wrong time and then the vibe of the match kind of changed. Boch, once again, just stepping up and being rock-solid for us.”

For the second day in a row, it all came down to one match. This one was on Court 4, where Tahan battled No. 100 Chen, a four-time ITA All-American and 2019 NCAA Singles Championship finalist.

After splitting the first two sets, Tahan led 4-1 in the third before losing five of the next six games. Trailing 5-6, Tahan won the next game to force a tiebreaker, where she blew a 2-0 and 4-3 lead. Chen narrowly squeaked by with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) decision to send the Blue Devils to the ACC Championship finals.

The Hurricanes will now wait and see where they land in the NCAA Team Championship bracket, where they are certain to make their 26th consecutive appearance. The field will be announced on May 2.