The Devil's in the Details: Duke men's tennis advances to Super Regionals, softball and track and field perform well in ACC championships

Niroop Vallabhaneni and Faris Khan have stepped up well as Duke's No. 3 doubles team.
Niroop Vallabhaneni and Faris Khan have stepped up well as Duke's No. 3 doubles team.

They say the devil is in the details. But in Durham, the Blue Devils are in the details — and numbers:


In April, senior Michael Heller, who shared the No. 2 doubles position on Duke men’s tennis with his teammate Andrew Zhang, injured himself badly enough to keep him off the court since then. In the absence of the Heller-Zhang duo, juniors Faris Khan and Niroop Vallabhaneni have stepped up as the Blue Devils’ third doubles team, while Connor Krug and Teddy Truwit moved from the No. 3 to No. 2 spot. Their prowess has not tracked an easy path: Khan and Vallabhaneni naturally needed time to adjust to their late-season role as part of the Duke machine seeking that one important doubles point in every match. And in a match that mattered most, it clicked. Sunday, the Blue Devils welcomed Cornell to Ambler Tennis Stadium for the second round of the NCAA tournament, beating them out 4-1 to advance to the super regionals. One of those points came from doubles, thanks to a nearly unbeatable No. 1 Duke duo of Garrett Johns and Pedro Rodenas — as well as the new No. 3 team. Khan and Vallabhaneni clinched their close set 7-5, showing tough persistence and a determined grit that places the two of them in a hopeful spot as the squad advances deeper in the national dance.


In its penultimate mid-week matchup, Duke baseball ran around the diamond at Jack Coombs Field against Rider. The Blue Devils started off on the wrong foot, giving up a 2-1 loss to the Broncos Tuesday evening in a game where junior Alex Stone was the lone Duke player with a run. Wednesday, though, they sought redemption — and found it in freshman James Tallon’s left hand. The Yorktown product pitched just two innings but still managed to strike out four Broncos, matching his season best and helping Duke seal the win in the top of the eighth inning. Tallon’s excellent hand against Rider is no anomaly — the southpaw, though only a freshman, heads up the Blue Devil pitching staff as one of the most significant pieces building towards a deep ACC tournament run.


With one day wrapped up at the ACC championship meet in Raleigh, Duke track and field is looking strong — especially on the men’s side. The Blue Devil men wrapped up the first day of competition with 31 points to put them in first place, a feat largely executed by Duke’s extraordinary field athletes. Graduate student Tyler Hrbek headlined the team’s efforts with a first-place finish in the pole vault, an event he consistently excels in. However, this time around, Hrbek launched himself to a personal record at 5.33m high, resetting the third-best mark in Duke all-time performances and out-vaulting the rest of the ACC by a clean margin of 0.1m. This new height from Hrbek marks the latest upgrade in a season of improvement from the Northvale, N.J., native, who has slowly but surely raised the bar for himself — literally — all season long.


En route to a conference semifinal, the Blue Devil softball squad knocked Georgia Tech out of the park with a 7-1 win Thursday evening. This recent victory is the latest in a streak of four, following a sweep of Pittsburgh last weekend to earn the Blue Devils a second seed in the ACC tournament. Those seven runs happened fast: three in the first, one in the third and three in the fifth piled up for Duke, while the Yellow Jackets only managed to snag a single run the whole game. Leading the Blue Devils in their valiant and successful efforts was a veteran-rookie duo composed of graduate student Deja Davis and freshman Aminah Vega, both of whom scored two runs early on to seal the win. The seventh run of the game came in epic style at the bottom of the fifth from redshirt sophomore Kristiana Watson. The Tucson, Ariz., native whacked the ball way out for her first home run of the season, opening up the bases for her and junior Kelly Torres to score runs six and seven. Duke followed this performance up with a Cassidy Curd no-hitter against Clemson which advanced the team to the ACC championship against Florida State. 

Sophie Levenson | Sports features editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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