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Duke men's tennis looks to get healthy, field full roster Friday against Florida State

<p>Nick Stachowiak and company have been shorthanded all season long and were missing four of eight players in their most recent loss.&nbsp;</p>

Nick Stachowiak and company have been shorthanded all season long and were missing four of eight players in their most recent loss. 

In the wake of a disappointing sweep by No. 3 Virginia last weekend, the Blue Devils are ready to get back on their feet—and get healthier—against Florida State.

Duke will return home to face the Seminoles at 3 p.m. Friday at Ambler Tennis Stadium in a matchup that comes after tough Sunday losses for both teams. The Blue Devils had to play without two key players Sunday with senior T.J. Pura and sophomore Catalin Mateas sidelined due to injury. As a result, Duke had to forfeit two singles matches and a doubles match with only four healthy players available on the roster, but head coach Ramsey Smith said the Blue Devils hope to welcome Pura and Mateas back to the court this weekend.

Duke has already been playing without Robert Levine due to sickness for the last month and top performer Nicolas Alvarez due to a wrist injury all season.

Pura holds an undefeated ACC record of 5-0 this season and an overall record of 22-9, and Mateas recently won ACC Player of the Week after knocking off No 11. Gage Brymer of UCLA in an impressive showing on Court 1. Without these key contributions, the Blue Devils could not keep pace with a juggernaut Virginia team and would struggle to beat any conference opponent after conceding two singles points and putting themselves in a hole in doubles.

Although Mateas has spent most of the season on court one, rising freshman star Spencer Furman supplanted him last Friday against Boston College and was effective in both his singles matches of the weekend. After earning a victory against the Eagles, Furman dropped a hard-fought 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) match against No. 6 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of Virginia Sunday. He was the only Duke player to win more than four games in a set against the Cavaliers.

Furman—who has an overall 18-6 record—said he is unfazed by the high-stakes Court 1 position that he holds as just a freshman after earning the promotion thanks to his high level of play throughout the season.

“I don’t really see it as pressure," Furman said. "I just see it as an honor and I think that helps me.”

The Blue Devils' roster features two other blue-chip freshmen in Levine and Nick Stachowiak, who have been solid forces on the court this season, though Levine has been out since Feb. 25. The trio has combined to go 62-25 in its first year.

“They’ve been unbelievably consistent, all three of them,” Smith said.

In Duke can finally be healthy for a match for the first time in months, these star freshmen will join Mateas and Pura along with sophomores Ryan Dickerson and Jason Lapidus for Friday's match.

Stachowiak and Furman in particular have shined in doubles play this season, holding a team-best 14-1 record on the court together.

“Nick and Spencer have been tremendous from day one and they’ve had a really good spring season,” said Smith. “Their records are really good.... They both picked up some big wins recently.”

The duo will face a steep challenge Friday against the Seminoles, who have been known for their remarkable doubles play. They have only lost two doubles points all season against Central Florida and Pepperdine and have an overall winning percentage in doubles of .729, compared to the Blue Devils' .649 clip.

Duke has recently struggled in doubles, dropping the point against Virginia after Dickerson and Lapidus lost 6-2. Stachowiak and Furman were also losing 5-2 when the point was decided. The possible return of Pura and Mateas would certainly help this phase of the game, as the duo currently holds a 4-1 doubles record for the season and has excelled in doubles pairs with other teammates.

Smith is well aware of Florida State’s strength on the doubles court and has made it a major focal point this week in practice.

“[We’re] looking forward to really focusing hard and playing a good, aggressive doubles point and going from there,” Smith said.

Despite the frustrating Virginia shutout, Duke sustained its intensity from the Boston College win this week in practice, and Furman said the loss has only pushed them more.

“We have a good energy out here and the guys are really motivated,” he said. “We’re trying to come back with a win.”

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