At the close of their regular season Sunday, seniors Reid Carelton, Alain Michel and Jared Pinsky achieved the only outcome acceptable for their senior match: victory. Not only did the win over 5-2 No. 25 Miami (14-7, 8-3 in the ACC) leave a memorable legacy for the seniors, but it also ensured that No. 10 Duke will have a first-round bye in the upcoming ACC tournament.
“I’m really happy for Reid, Al and Jared,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “They’ve given so much to the program and it’s nice to see them finish up with a win at home.”
It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, however. An early defeat in the doubles point put the Blue Devils (18-8, 9-2) behind on the scoreboard, with only the team of Carleton and Henrique Cunha defeating their counterparts, 8-1. David Holland and Chris Mengel fell to Omar Aly and Keith Crowley, 8-4, followed shortly with Pedro Ast and Eduardo Pavia defeating Pinsky and Fred Saba, 8-3.
“We have four doubles teams and two through four at moments have all played really, really well,” Smith said. “It just hasn’t been as consistent as I would have liked. So we’ve just got to keep tweaking things and we’ll certainly be doing a lot of doubles over the next couple of days.”
Despite this early deficit, Duke players across the board stepped up in singles play. They were nearly perfect, with four of the five singles points won in straight sets.
“I was really pleased with the singles today,” Smith said. “I thought all six guys did a really great job…. If we had lost this match, it would have been four matches in four days to have to win the [ACC] tournament.”
Mengel and Luke Marchese put the Blue Devils on top early. Fighting back from a 3-0 deficit in the first set, Marchese won four straight games to ultimately take the match in straight sets of 6-4, 6-2. Mengel, with his victory over Waylon Chin 6-2, 6-3, tied the school record for most ACC wins as a freshman.
Carleton’s senior day didn’t end with his doubles victory. After achieving his first 30-win season on Friday against Florida State, Carleton improved it to 31 as he finished Crowley in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
“Winning this match means that I get to play another match at home for the NCAA tournament,” Carleton said. “It’s awesome to finish the regular season with a singles, doubles and a team win... and it puts us on the other side of Virginia [in the bracket].”
With their victory over the Hurricanes, the Blue Devils clinched the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament and a bye in the first round. This win could give Duke the momentum it needs for postseason success.
“We’re confident,” Cunha said. “We’re one of the better teams in this conference, and I think we have a good chance to win this tournament.”
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