For Duke, it's all about rebounding.
After losing the last two meetings with North Carolina, giving up the all important first doubles point and watching No. 1 singles player Reid Carlton retire early with a persisting back injury, the Blue Devils rebounded to beat their light-blue-clad rival 5-2 Tuesday in Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.
"We did a great job of bouncing back," head coach Ramsey Smith said. "We won all five first sets in singles, competed exceptionally well and we came back in those clutch moments deep in the second and third sets."
Smith, a former Duke tennis standout, understands the battle for Tobacco Road all too well, and he earned his first coaching victory against North Carolina (13-6, 2-4 in the ACC) with the win.
Carleton's afternoon began strongly, as the sophomore partnered with junior Dylan Arnould to win their doubles match, 8-5. But in singles play, Carleton's back affected him to the point where he could no longer move. Carleton retired midway through the second set, but Smith said it was key for Carleton's teammates to see him persevere through pain.
The Blue Devils, down 2-0 after Carleont's withdrawal, saw leadership in Jared Pinsky. After winning a close first set against No. 4 Brennan Boyajian, Pinsky clinched an essential win for Duke (12-5, 5-2) by finishing off the match in straight sets. Following suit, No. 3 Arnould sealed the win for Duke in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Even after the Blue Devils had clinched the team victory, lone senior Kirli Dimitrov refused to give up one more opportunity to win against the Tar Heels. Dimitrov's competition came in the form of North Carolina's only senior, Taylor Fogleman, on his senior day. Although the Tar Heel presented quite a battle for Dimitrov, Duke came out on top, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.
"We competed," Arnould said. "We didn't necessarily play our best, but we bared down and competed. We had a chip on our shoulder from the last time we played them, but we wanted and expected a lot from everyone on the team. In the end, I think we just wanted it more and our play showed that."
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