The weekend brought some good and some bad for Duke's fifth-ranked men's tennis team. After slamming Maryland (8-9, 0-8 in the ACC) 7-0 Saturday in College Park, the Blue Devils (18-6, 5-2 ACC) closed their regular season by falling 4-3 to Virginia (19-3, 7-1 ACC) in Charlottesville.
Duke's road trip began auspiciously enough as they overpowered an outmatched Terrapins team. Despite not playing second-seeded singles player Ludovic Walter or their top-ranked doubles team of Walter and junior Jason Zimmerman, the Blue Devils obliterated Maryland for the doubles point, winning all three doubles matches. The singles matches proved to be no different; Duke dominated the Maryland players, winning each match in straight sets. A particularly bright spot for the Blue Devils was the presence of junior Peter Shults, who made his second appearance for the Blue Devils this season. The Little Rock, Ark. native has been rehabilitating after coming off major shoulder surgery.
"I think we all played very well," said Shults, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Maryland's David Reichsfield. "It felt very good personally for me to get back to doing my thing."
Unfortunately for Shults and the Blue Devils, Sunday was an entirely different story. Duke found itself in an early hole against the fifteenth-ranked Cavaliers after losing the doubles point. Virginia's 31st-ranked duo of Rylan Rizza and Nick Meythaler handled Duke's fifth-ranked tandem of Zimmerman and Walter, 8-3. Marko Miklo and Stephen Rozek's 8-5 victory over the Blue Devils' Stephen Amritraj and Peter Rodrigues helped claim the doubles point for Virginia.
Subsequently, Miklo and Cavaliers' 21st-ranked singles player Doug Stewart claimed straight-set victories over Rodrigues and fifth-ranked Duke captain Phillip King, respectively, to take a 3-0 lead. The Blue Devils would make it interesting, knotting the score at three apiece after wins from Zimmerman, Jonathan Stokke, and Christopher Brown. In the match's last game, however, Duke's Walter fell to Rizza 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 to give Virginia their first men's tennis victory over the Blue Devils in 26 tries.
The Virginia loss drops the Blue Devils behind North Carolina and Virginia for the regular season ACC championship. In the upcoming ACC tournament, the Blue Devils will be seeded third, an unfamiliar position for a team that at one point in the season had a 58-match ACC winning streak.
According to Shults, however, the team is ready for the task at hand--another ACC tournament title.
"I actually think [the loss] gives us more motivation," Shults said. "We have a really big motivation to win the ACC tournament and show everyone that we're still the dominant team."
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