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Duke lights up California powers

With anything but a break last week, Duke men's tennis knocked down a ladder of talented teams on the west coast to come back to Durham with wins against some of the strongest squads in the nation.

The Blue Devils (11-4) won a match at home against No. 17 Texas March 5 and three matches on the road last week against UC-Irvine, No. 8 UCLA and No. 4 Southern California over break.

"It's the best spring break we've ever had," head coach Jay Lapidus said. "I am hoping we'll move up to number five [when the rankings come out this week]."

In the match against UC-Irvine, Duke swept the doubles and singles fields to earn a 7-0 shutout victory over its California foe.

"The schedule we purposely did that way," Lapidus said. "We wanted to get the trip off to the right start [and the] trip worked out perfectly. We played really well."

Duke next slid past No. 8 UCLA by a 4-3 margin. UCLA gained the doubles point, winning at No. 1 and No. 3, and Phillip King lost at No. 1 singles, 6-2, 6-2 to put the Blue Devils in an early hole. However, Duke was able to take flights two through five to secure the victory. The win was sealed with Jason Zimmermann's 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 86 Phillipp Gruendler in the No. 5 singles match.

"This win was obviously really big," Lapidus said. "The trip can be made with a big win like that. [The team win] really got the trip going in right direction."

With a match against No. 4 Southern California the following afternoon, Duke did not have much time to think about its win over UCLA. However, according to Lapidus, the mentality from the triumph over the Bruins carried over to the match with the Trojans.

King led the Blue Devils in their strong 6-1 victory over USC, winning at No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles with partner Jonathan Stokke, who was 6-0 on the week in his singles and doubles play.

After stumbling in recent matches against Texas and UCLA, the nation's fourth-ranked doubles pair of Ludovic Walter and Zimmermann won against USC's Johan Berg and Adriano Biasella, 8-6.

"They are starting to play better," Lapidus said. "Even against UCLA they lost a close match against a good team. They are definitely on the right track."

Before heading out on its west coast road trip, Duke secured a 5-2 victory against Texas with a win in five out of six singles matchups.

With a 10-day rest before resuming its ACC schedule at Florida State, Duke is right where Lapidus hoped it would be.

"I knew we had a good team and started out the season really well," Lapidus said. "I'm feeling really good about the way things are coming together."

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