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Duke wins hard-fought meet in South Bend

Reid Carleton struggled early in his match and lost his first set 1-6, but battled back to win, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Reid Carleton struggled early in his match and lost his first set 1-6, but battled back to win, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

For head coach Ramsey Smith, resiliency is everything. Despite a tough loss in doubles and initial problems in singles, Duke (6-0) refused to give up Sunday, defeating Notre Dame (2-2) 5-2 in South Bend, Ind.

The Blue Devils have seen nothing but success in doubles this season, winning the coveted point in their five previous matches. But despite a strong 8-4 performance from team leaders Henrique Cunha and Reid Carleton at the No. 1 position, the other two pairs couldn’t pull off a victory.

“It is the first doubles point we lost this season,” Smith said. “Notre Dame is a good doubles team to be sure, but we definitely had chances to win and unfortunately it didn’t go our way. It was a good opportunity to deal with some adversity, though, and be forced to do well in singles.”

No. 14 Duke struggled early against the No. 26 Fighting Irish in singles play as well, trailing in four of six matches and ultimately losing three of its first sets. Carleton struggled with a 1-6 loss of the first set at the No. 2 position, his largest defeat of the season.

“I lost my first set and then was down 2-0 in the second set too, which was tough,” Carleton said. “I was just trying to focus on the positives every time I won a point or did something well. I got a lot of energy that way and started chipping away little by little at the deficit and focusing on what I was doing well.”

Carleton was not the only one who came back from a rocky start against the Fighting Irish. Senior Jared Pinsky turned things around to win the next two sets 6-2 and Cunha, freshman Chris Mengel and junior Luke Marchese won in straight sets after initial deficits against their opponents. Freshman Fred Saba was the only singles player who left South Bend without a singles victory.

“The high energy was just contagious at the beginning of those second sets when we started to break away,” Smith said. “You have to stay positive and keep the energy up. When they come with their punches we have to hang in there and keep fighting which we did a good job of.”

Smith said he was particularly impressed with the vigor Mengel showed throughout his singles match. Smith also noted the leadership exhibited by Cunha at the No. 1 position and Carleton at No. 2 who are now, respectively, 18-2 and 17-3 in singles.

An undefeated Duke team has little time to rest as it prepares to take on No. 16 Illinois in Urbana, Ill. today at 2 p.m. Carleton said yesterday’s battle against the Fighting Irish gave the Blue Devils more experience as they move forward with their schedule and prepare for more skilled opponents down the road.

“I was really happy that we bounced back and it was good preparation for Illinois,” Carleton said. “They are a tough team and everyone is expecting a tough match. We need to show the intensity that we showed in the second and third set against Notre Dame. We are a tough team to play right now too, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.”


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