CARY, N.C.—All streaks must come to an end, and Sunday was that day for Duke.
After winning nine straight matches and earning a trip to the ACC tournament final, the second-seeded Blue Devils fell to No. 1-seed Virginia in a hard-fought match 4-1.
Virginia graduate Ryan Goetz fired a winner past the arms of sophomore Connor Krug to clinch the victory, an exclamation point giving the Cavaliers their 16th-straight win.
“Just credit to Virginia, they played extremely well, they've been in this position a lot,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “But I’m super proud of the guys and happy with how we performed.”
In the doubles rounds, Duke grabbed the momentum first, as the Blue Devils had the lead in all three matches. However, Duke’s No. 3 team of Niroop Vallabhaneni and Faris Khan was unable to sustain a 2-0 lead, falling 6-3 to Goetz and Alexander Kiefer.
Following this, elite shotmaking by Virginia turned the tide. Despite Krug’s wide frame, Chris Rodesch and Jeffrey von der Schulenburg hit masterful passing shots, powering their way through Krug and Teddy Truwit 6-4 to clinch the doubles point.
“We actually started off great in doubles in the first 15 minutes and Virginia did a good job of grabbing that momentum midway through,” said Smith.
Chants of “Let’s go Wahoos” and “Blue Devils” were ringing through the air on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Despite the proximity advantage, there was no doubt that Virginia brought the bigger crowd.
The singles rounds featured intense competition, as four out of the six matches went to three sets. Recently, a steady force for Duke has been freshman Pedro Rodenas, who continued his remarkable streak of 10 straight victories with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of fellow Spaniard Iñaki Montes.
“I'm running out of things to say about Pedro,” said Smith. “[Montes] for Virginia is one of the hardest outs in all of college tennis.”
Interestingly, Smith mentioned that they are great friends and Montes mentored Rodenas during the recruiting process, giving all the more meaning to the win.
“Pedro played freely and went after it,” said Smith. “I think this tournament put him in the NCAA tournament, which is exciting because he deserves to be there.”
The other straight-set singles match went to the Cavaliers, as von der Schulenberg defeated Andrew Zhang 6-4, 6-2. With Virginia maintaining a 2-1 overall lead, it was anybody’s game with four matches remaining.
At the No. 1 spot, senior Garrett Johns lost the first set to Rodesch 6-4 but stormed back to a 5-2 lead in the second. Nevertheless, the 10th-ranked Rodesch knotted the set at 5-5, and it eventually went to a tiebreak.
With Johns leading 6-2 in the first-to-seven tiebreak, he miraculously hit a one-handed backhand into play after being stretched out wide, forcing a Rodesch miss and winning the set with an emphatic celebration.
At the same time, Andrew Dale and Connor Krug won their respective second sets after falling in the first, and after it seemed as though Virginia would pull away, Duke inched closer.
“There was like a 15-minute stretch there where I felt like we really grabbed the momentum and I felt like we were gonna win,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, on court six, Jake Krug was in a battle with Virginia’s Mans Dahlberg. The Blue Devil sophomore won the first set 6-4, but Dahlberg’s consistent groundstrokes were difficult to defeat, and he took the second set 6-2.
Right beside him, Connor Krug struggled in the beginning of his deciding set, falling behind 4-0. The big-serving twins were unable to win their respective third sets, and the title belonged to Virginia.
“It's a gritty group,” said Smith. “Again, this one didn't go our way but I couldn't be more proud of all 10 guys.”
The Blue Devils now await their opponent for the first round of the NCAA tournament, beginning May 5.
“I feel like we've earned the right to host the first two rounds, which was one of our goals,” said Smith. “I think we need to just fine-tune some things, keep building and just make sure we're ready to go for that last run.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity first-year and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.