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Wins in Florida set up second-place showdown

Duke entered the weekend as part of a three team race for second place in the conference along with No. 21 North Carolina and Florida State. After a tight win over the Seminoles Friday, the No. 7 Blue Devils are set up for a deciding match against the Tar Heels in their regular season finale.

Duke (18-3, 7-1 in the ACC) defeated Florida State by a 4-3 margin despite losing the doubles point for the first time since a Mar. 9 loss to Pepperdine and then swept Miami 7-0 for a perfect trip through the state of Florida. The first victory of the weekend handed the Seminoles (16-6, 7-2) their first ACC loss and gave the Blue Devils the crucial tiebreaker in the standings.

“It was a big weekend for us,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “In the past we’ve had trouble winning both matches in Florida, beating Florida State and Miami. It’s a tough place to play.”

After the teams split the first two doubles matches, Duke’s Henrique Cunha and Chris Mengel fell to the Seminoles’ Blake Davis and Jordan Kelly-Houston. Cunha claimed revenge quickly, however, opening singles play with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kelly-Houston in the No. 1 spot. That victory evened the match at 1-1 and swung momentum over to the Blue Devils.

Following two wins from each team, Mengel managed to fight to a 6-4, 6-4 win over Davis. The victory put Duke ahead by the final margin of 4-3 and kept the Blue Devils in the chase for the ACC tournament’s second seed.

Two days later against Miami (8-10, 1-8), Duke did not face nearly as much pressure in its 7-0 romp. After sweeping the three doubles matches, the Blue Devils cruised to straight set wins in all six singles matches.

“Today we were able to beat Miami without dropping a set in singles or doubles, so it helped us build confidence,” Smith said.

Sunday afternoon’s events in Northern Florida could also prove beneficial to the Blue Devils. North Carolina defeated Florida State 4-3 Sunday to move into second place in the conference, a half game ahead of Duke. The loss, and a looming road matchup against No. 2 Virginia, the clear favorite to win the conference, will likely relegate Florida State to the conference’s fourth seed. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels, whose lone ACC losses came to the Cavaliers, will almost certainly determine the second seed this week. But regardless of the outcome, the Tobacco Road rivals will likely be the second and third seeds in the conference tournament, delaying any potential matchup with Virginia until the final.

“We’re fighting for seeding in the ACC tournament,” Smith said. “It’s nice to finish the weekend with two wins because it feels good going into Wednesday.”

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