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Duke Leaps Into National Championship Match With Win Over Georgia

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The Duke University women’s tennis team continued its roll through the NCAA Tournament field tonight with a 5-2 win over No. 2 Georgia in the NCAA Tournament Semifinals. The third-seeded Blue Devils will take on No. 8 California in the NCAA Championship match on May 19 at 7 p.m. (ET), on ESPNU. Beth Mowins will call the action and Mal Washington will provide color commentary.

Duke (28-3) advances to the NCAA Championship match for the second time in program history, losing to Florida 5-1 in 1998. The Blue Devils’ 28 wins this season ranks second all-time in program history, while their current 17-match win streak also is second. Duke is now 44-20 in NCAA Tournament action, including an impressive 35-10 under current head coach Jamie Ashworth.

The national title match against California will be a rematch of the 2008 NCAA Tournament round of 16 contest. The Bears edged the Blue Devils 4-3 last year to end Duke’s season. It will be the eighth overall meeting between the two teams with Duke holding a 5-2 advantage in the series. The two squads have met twice in NCAA Tournament action. Duke defeated the Bears 5-0 in the 1997 quarterfinals, while California earned the win in 2008.

Georgia (27-3) opened with the better of play in the beginning of the doubles action. The Bulldogs jumped ahead on courts one and two, but the Blue Devils charged back into the matches to get back on serve.

On court three, sophomores Reka Zsilinszkaand Ellah Nzewent to work right away against Georgia’s Monika Dancevic and Yvette Hyndman. The tandem cruised to an 8-3 win to give Duke the first win of the evening.

Meanwhile, Duke’s No. 1 and No. 2 pairs were in heated battles. After falling behind early, rookie Mallory Ceciland senior Jessi Robinsonregained their composure and clawed their way back on serve. Carrying all of the momentum at that point, they closed out the match, winning 8-5.

Helping the cause at the top of the lineup were senior Melissa Mangand junior Amanda Granson, who rallied back from an early deficit to get back on serve and keep the sixth-ranked pair from Georgia on the court.

After clinching the crucial doubles point, Duke came out and took the first sets on four of the six courts. The Bulldogs evened the overall match score to 1-1 with a 6-3, 6-1 win from Cameron Ellis at No. 6.

Granson and Mang came up big for the Blue Devils as they both captured their opening sets at No. 4 and No. 5 respectively. Coming off perhaps her most memorable performance of the season in the quarterfinals, Granson continued her stellar play. She breezed past No. 99 Dancevic 6-3, 6-2 to give Duke a 2-1 advantage.

Minutes later, Mang came off the court with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Naoko Ueshima. The win was Mang’s 16th consecutive and the 34th this season. She has not lost since March 12 against Notre Dame. Her 34 wins this season is a career-high and ranks 25th in Duke program history.

Leading 3-1 overall, the Blue Devils were in complete control overall. Zsilinszka raced out to a 4-0 lead in the second set, while Nze started to pull away in her second set. With their eyes on a chance at the national title, they both closed out their matches within seconds of each other to give Duke the 5-2 victory. 

Cecil turned in an important performance for the Blue Devils at No. 1 singles despite suffering a tough 6-4, 7-5 loss to No. 9 Chelsey Gullickson. Similar to how Duke’s No. 1 doubles team battled to stay on the court, Cecil fought to stay alive at the top singles spot. She dropped the opening set 6-4 and fell behind 3-0 to start the second set. The Spartanburg, S.C., native battled back to make it 4-4 and kept Gullickson from cruising to a victory and allowed the Blue Devils to gain the 3-1 advantage and set up for the crucial final points. 

Fans who are unable to watch the match can follow the live video and live statistics on www.GoDuke.com.

#3 Duke University 5, #2 University of Georgia 2
May 18, 2009 at College Station, Texas (Mitchell Tennis Center)

Singles competition
1. #9 Chelsey Gullickson (UGA) def. #6 Mallory Cecil(DU) 6-4, 7-5
2. #37 Ellah Nze(DU) def. #55 Yvette Hyndman (UGA) 6-4, 6-3
3. #30 Reka Zsilinszka(DU) def. #56 Nadja Gilchrist (UGA) 6-4, 6-2
4. #91 Amanda Granson(DU) def. #99 Monika Dancevic (UGA) 6-3, 6-2
5. #122 Melissa Mang(DU) def. Naoko Ueshima (UGA) 6-2, 6-2
6. Cameron Ellis (UGA) def. Jessi Robinson(DU) 6-3, 6-1

Doubles competition
1. #6 Chelsey Gullickson/Nadja Gilchrist (UGA) vs. #22 Amanda Granson/Melissa Mang(DU) 6-6, unfinished
2. #53 Jessi Robinson/Mallory Cecil(DU) def. Monika Dancevic/Yvette Hyndman (UGA) 8-5
3. Reka Zsilinszka/Ellah Nze(DU) def. Cameron Ellis/Naoko Ueshima (UGA) 8-3

Match Notes
Duke University 27-3; National ranking #3
University of Georgia 28-3; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (6,4,5,1,2,3)
NCAA Semifinals
Duke advances to national title match for first time since 1998.