Georgia, which made its 26th consecutive NCAA postseason appearance, jumped out to a 1-0 lead by winning the doubles point, but Duke (29-2) won four singles matches to clinch a berth in the semifinals. The Bulldogs conclude the year with a 24-5 record. It was the program’s 21st appearance in the quarterfinals, and its 11th since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999.
“It’s really tough right now,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said of the loss. “I’m extremely proud of them as a coach, how they responded to every challenge all through the year. It’s hard for us right now as a group because we really wanted to go on because we appreciate each other and want to continue to play because we enjoy our team so much.”
In doubles, the No. 1 duo of Kate Fuller and Nadja Gilchrist, ranked 46th nationally, nearly blanked Duke’s 21st ranked duo of Mary Clayton and Ester Goldfeld, winning 8-1. At No. 2, Duke’s 17th-ranked pair of Beatrice Capra and Rachel Kahan beat Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson and Lauren Herring, 8-6, with just one break at 3-3. At No. 3, Maho Kowase and Lilly Kimbell allowed two breaks early, but fought back to go up 4-3. With the score 7-6, Kimbell hammered home a winner to give the pair its 22nd consecutive doubles victory and Georgia its 23rd doubles point of the year.
In singles, Duke’s Goldfeld, ranked 110th nationally, topped Gilchrist 6-2, 7-5 to even the score at one. A short time later, seventh-ranked Gullickson beat second-ranked Beatrice Capra 6-3, 6-2. It was the first time in 20 matches that Capra had dropped a first set, and snapped her 16-match winning streak. At No. 6, Kimbell came back to force Duke’s 97th-ranked Monica Turewicz into a third set, but fell, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Kimbell finishes the year 18-5 in dual match singles play.
With the match tied at 2-2, 59th-ranked Mar outlasted Georgia’s 58th-ranked Kowase 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Duke clinched the match with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5) win by 85th-ranked Kahan over 70th-ranked Herring. Herring, the 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year, finishes the season with a 30-9 mark.
“Chelsey played phenomenal today just like she’s played for four years,” Wallace said. “Maho is a rock and without her we wouldn’t have been playing today. We really felt like she was going to be able to get it down, but [Duke’s Hanna Mar] played great against her. We fought hard. We had lots of opportunities. You’ve just got to credit Duke. They played great.”
Georgia will still be in action in the singles and doubles draws as Gullickson and Kowase will play in singles. Gullickson, who will enter the tournament with a 34-9 record, will be vying to hoping to duplicate her 2010 NCAA singles title that she claimed in Athens. She is the No. 8 seed in the tournament. It will be Kowase’s first appearance in the singles tournament. Gullickson will also participate in the doubles tournament with fellow senior Gilchrist. The pair is 20-7 this season. The singles and doubles tournament will begin Wednesday at 9 a.m.