After three straight top-10 losses, the Blue Devils got back above .500 in conference play this week with two home victories against N.C. State and Boston College.
Duke bounced back from a 4-3 loss at No. 10 UCLA March 16 with a 5-2 win against the Wolfpack Wednesday and a 7-0 sweep of the Eagles two days later at Ambler Tennis Stadium. The Blue Devils are now 9-1 at home this season after the two dominant wins.
“I think one thing we did really well in that stretch was we actually played better in each match,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We were ready this week knowing it was going to be tough.... I thought we came in Wednesday with a really good mindset—it all started with really good doubles that set the tone and continued into [Friday]."
Smith elected to keep the doubles lineups the same in both matches, with freshman duo Nick Stachowiak and Spencer Furman on Court 1, sophomore tandem Jason Lapidus and Ryan Dickerson on Court 2 and senior T.J. Pura paired with sophomore Catalin Mateas on Court 3.
Lapidus and Dickerson finished their doubles match first with a 6-2 win Wednesday, followed by a similar 6-2 result for Pura and Mateas to secure the doubles point for the Blue Devils (10-6, 3-2 in the ACC) against N.C. State.
Facing Boston College (3-8, 0-3), Lapidus and Dickerson finished their doubles contest first once again, marking the third straight match they have notched Duke's first doubles win.
“We’re very intense immediately, right from the start,” Lapidus said. “It’s not like we have to work our way into the match at all.”
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Stachowiak and Furman clinched Friday's doubles point with their 7-6 (7-2) win against Derek Austin and Hank Woodman. The Blue Devils have won the doubles point in 12 of their 16 dual matches.
“We’ve been working really hard on doubles,” Smith said. “It just always sets the tone for a dual match to win that doubles point. “
In singles play against the Wolfpack (9-9, 0-3 ACC), the Blue Devils had three fairly easy wins on Courts 3,4 and 5. Dickerson beat Sean Burnette 6-1, 6-1 for Duke’s first singles point, Stachowiak beat Georgiy Malyshev 6-1, 6-2 and Pura clinched the match win for the Blue Devils with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Igor Saveljic.
“I’ve been putting a lot of work into my serve,” Pura said. “I haven’t been getting broken too much this season, which is really big for me because I know that I’ll be able to get breaks from my opponents.”
No. 95 Mateas took on No. 87 Nick Horton on Court 1 and lost 6-3, 6-3. Lapidus had a similar fate against Michael Ogden, falling 7-6 (7-5), 6-1. Both losses came before Pura clinched the match.
On Court 2, No. 76 Furman took on No. 92 Alexis Galarneau in the closest match of the afternoon. Furman lost the first set 6-1 but rallied to win the second set 6-4 and the third set 7-5 for his first win against a ranked opponent in three matches.
“Spencer was getting absolutely crushed by N.C. State’s best player and was down a set and a break,” Smith said. “It wasn’t looking good, but he just hung in there and competed very well and found a way to win that match.”
In singles play Friday against Boston College, Pura made quick work of Kent Mukai with a clean 6-0, 6-0 sweep on Court 4 to clinch the first singles point.
“I don’t take points off anymore, and I have an energy level on the court that’s very fired up and positive,” Pura said, “Knowing exactly what I’m trying to do each point has probably made the biggest difference for me this year.”
Furman and Stachowiak followed with wins, Stachowiak’s clinching the match for the Blue Devils. Furman beat Derek Austin 6-2, 6-2 on Court 1 and his classmate beat Sean Mullins 6-3, 6-3 on Court 3.
“We kind of rewarded Spencer today by letting him play at No. 1,” Smith said. “He played excellent today and hit the ball a lot better than he did on Wednesday.”
Lapidus celebrated his first dual-match singles win of the season in a 6-4, 6-3 back-and-forth match against Jeffrey Melvin on Court 6.
“It was nice to finally break though,” Lapidus said. “I’ve definitely been improving a lot, getting a lot better and a lot more experience. It was good to finally see the hard work pay off today.”
Mateas and Dickerson completed the sweep on Courts 2 and 5, respectively.
Dickerson fell behind, losing the first set 6-2 to Alexander Chieffalo, but he took the next set 6-2, which sent the two to a super-tiebreaker in place of a third set since the overall match was already determined. Dickerson pulled away with a 7-3 run to win the tiebreaker 10-6.
Duke will wrap up the first half of conference play with a tough matchup at No. 2 Virginia Sunday afternoon.
“It’ll be a great test,” Smith said. “We have nothing to lose and we’re playing well—we’re on a little run here.“