Throughout the regular season, Duke struggled to defeat the top teams in the country, boasting only a single victory against a top-30 team in then-No. 27 Florida State March 31.

The Blue Devils could not recreate that success against another top team from the Sunshine State, falling to No. 22 South Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday in Athens, Ga.

Duke put up a strong fight for the doubles point at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, but the Bulls got on the board first before dominating the Blue Devils in the singles portion of the contest, easily eliminating them from the tournament with a 4-0 victory.

“It wasn't our day today,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith told “I give full credit to South Florida. I thought they played a tremendous match. I think the momentum really shifted in the doubles. We had two team match points to clinch the doubles point, which I think would have given us a little more confidence and maybe change the momentum.”

After the freshmen duo of Spencer Furman and Nick Stachowiak fell 6-2 on the first doubles court, sophomore Catalin Mateas and senior TJ Pura—the Blue Devils' only competitor with NCAA tournament experience—followed up with a strong 6-2 victory to even the doubles tally.

However, sophomores Ryan Dickerson and Jason Lapidus were unable to pull out the win on the second doubles court, allowing South Florida (18-8) to take the doubles point. Although the duo led 6-5 and had two match points in the 12th game, juniors Justin Roberts and Peter Bertran rallied to win the game and won the last five points of the tiebreak for a 7-6 (7-3) victory.

Unfortunately for Duke (16-10), the closely contested doubles play failed to carry over to singles.

“They played awfully well in singles in all six spots. They really took it to us early," Smith said. "We battled there at the end and turned a couple matches around, on Courts 2, 5 and 6. Our guys fought like they always have. But South Florida they were just too good for us today.”

Every Blue Devil player lost the first set and Robert Levine was the first to fall, dropping his match 6-1, 6-2 to Alberto Barroso-Campos in a matchup of two promising freshmen. The carnage continued as No. 75 Furman lost to No. 52 Sasha Gozun on Court 1, 6-3, 6-1.

Although a 6-3 win from Pura in the second set and Mateas’ second set heading to a tiebreak provided some hope, Stachowiak was defeated by No. 99 Bertran at No. 4 singles 6-4, 6-2 to close out the match.

Despite this loss marking the end of the season for Duke, the young team showed some promise for the future. The Blue Devils will graduate only one senior from a lineup that featured three freshmen and three sophomores. Duke also played the entire year without its top player, junior Nicolas Alvarez, who suffered from an ongoing wrist injury.

“[I am] definitely going to miss TJ. I think the neatest part of him is he’s left the program a lot better than when he came in,” Smith said. “We’ve had more wins before but in terms of shaping the culture, leadership, setting the foundations for some real success in the future and really taking the team under his wing, he absolutely invested everything into the team, 100 percent.”

With such youth and the prospect of Alvarez’s return next year, the Blue Devils could be primed for a deeper run in the NCAA tournament.

“These guys have really set the foundation for future success. It was a little bit of a rebuilding year and a very young team that dealt with some injuries and illnesses,” Smith said. "Just getting here was an accomplishment. Halfway through the year it wasn't looking very good and the guys could have easily thrown in the towel. We finished very strong and gave ourselves a shot.”