Coming off two key wins last weekend, Duke entered its last regular-season match looking to strengthen its NCAA tournament resume with a road victory against an opponent with a comparable resume.

And on a day when their star freshman faltered, the Blue Devil veterans stepped up and led the team to a fourth straight victory.

Duke knocked off Louisville 4-3 Friday afternoon at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center in Louisville, Ky. The Blue Devils fell behind early before rallying with three straight victories in singles to secure the win and most likely clinch the No. 5 seed in next week's ACC tournament depending on the rest of this weekend's matches.

“This is a huge win for us,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “[It was a] big ACC match on the road, big for ACC standings, big for ACC seeding and really big for solidifying our spot in the NCAA tournament. [I’m] really proud of our guys, we fought really hard.... Louisville is a really good team, but we came through in the clutch today.”

The match started in tense fashion as the teams battled for the doubles point.

It took all three doubles matches to decide the day's first point after the Blue Devils (15-8, 8-4 in the ACC) rolled 6-0 at No. 3 doubles thanks to sophomore Catalin Mateas and senior TJ Pura but fell short at No. 1 doubles, losing 6-3.

This meant the burden fell on the shoulders of  the No. 2 doubles tandem of sophomores Jason Lapidus and Ryan Dickerson, who dug deep to snatch a break up 6-5 and triumph 7-5 in the match to give Duke a critical first point.

But the Blue Devils’ momentum dissipated quickly entering singles play, when the Cardinals (19-7, 6-5) won two quick matches on Courts 2 and 3. 

Duke freshman Robert Levine continued his slump since returning from mononucleosis, as he has won just one of six matches since coming back and fell 6-1, 6-2 at No. 3 singles Friday. Fellow freshman Spencer Furman played at No. 2 singles after playing most of the season at No. 1 and was also unable to win more than two games in either set—he has now dropped five straight matches.

With the match threatening to get away from Duke, the veterans who had to endure last season's disappointment when the Blue Devils missed the NCAA tournament dug in. 

Mateas had been on a hot streak by rattling off six straight wins coming into the regular-season finale and moved up to No. 1 singles. The No. 100 player in the country continued playing his best tennis of the year by rolling to a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Christopher Morin-Kougoucheff to tie the match at two and settle Duke down.

“Catalin definitely played one of his better matches,” Smith said. “This guy beat him in the fall pretty convincingly and [Catalin] was awesome from start to finish. That’s such a huge boost to get a match at No. 1 singles like that.”

Dickerson was the next to step up, winning 6-3, 6-4 at No. 6 singles to pick up his sixth straight ACC win. This set the stage for the Blue Devils’ only senior and the most consistent player all year to seal the victory.

Pura did not disappoint, triumphing in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 (7-3). He fell behind 5-3 in the second set before ripping off three straight games to take the lead, then captured the ensuing tiebreaker. This win completed the Pacific Palisades, Calif., native’s perfect ACC season and vaulted him into a tie for the sixth most all-time ACC victories by a Duke player.

“It was neat to see TJ clinch the match for us when it was getting extremely tight,” Smith said. “That also capped off TJ’s undefeated ACC season, which is an incredible accomplishment, especially in the modern ACC era of so many good teams. It was kind of fitting to see TJ finish his last regular-season match clinching a huge match for us.”

After the Blue Devils clinched the win, freshman Nick Stachowiak lost at No. 4 singles in a tough three-set match 6-1, 3-6, 7-5.

The three freshman who have been crucial for Duke all year failed to pick up a point Friday, but the veteran players stepped up and guaranteed that the Blue Devils will head into the ACC tournament with some serious momentum having won seven of nine matches. 

Duke will find out its conference tournament seeding officially this weekend before traveling to Rome, Ga., next week.