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Spring begins without key duo

(01/15/10 10:00am)

With a 17-3 doubles record in the fall season, junior Reid Carleton and freshman Henrique Cuhna lead No. 19 Duke as the Blue Devils look forward to starting regular season play.   And yet, as the team prepares for its own Duke Invitational exhibition tournament this weekend, it does so without the help of its two strongest players.   Due to a win in the ITA Carolina Regional Championship and a run to the national doubles championship match, Carleton and Cuhna played more fall season matches than any of their teammates. As the NCAA limits players to 25 total contests prior to the official start of the spring season, Carleton and Cuhna will not compete in their home tournament against East Tennessee State, Elon and North Carolina this weekend.    The players go into the season ranked No. 8 nationally in doubles. After the Blue Devils struggled significantly last season in winning the all-important doubles point, head coach Ramsey Smith is glad to see that this newly formed team was able to learn to work together so quickly. Although Cuhna joined the Blue Devils after growing up and playing in Jau, Brazil, the language barrier isn’t affecting the partners while they’re out on the court.   “Tennis is a universal language and they get along great playing doubles,” Smith said. “They had an unbelievable fall and they have being doing great as a team. One of the problems last season was that we didn’t have a legitimate No. 1 doubles team so that put a lot of pressure on No. 2 and No. 3, but with Cuhna and Carleton really establishing themselves as No. 1 and everyone playing well and playing a lot over break, I’m excited to see everyone play.”   Smith decided to use the absence of his dynamic duo this weekend as an opportunity to do some new things with his lineup.   “Unfortunately, they are sitting out,” Smith said. “I think it’s actually a good thing because it will give some of our other guys a chance to play a little higher and get some opportunities against top players.”  Sophomore Luke Marchese is looking forward to this weekend’s matches and the challenge of playing in a higher spot than usual. Marchese posted a Duke freshman record with nine ACC wins last season, tying for the most ever during league play by a Duke player, and he knows that he is capable of playing even better tennis.   “I’m going to be playing a lot of doubles this year even though I didn’t play a lot last year,” Marchese said. “I’m hoping to play pretty high up in the singles lineup because I feel like I proved myself last year.”   Although the upcoming matches won’t count as dual matches or toward the team record, Marchese said the Blue Devils take the matches just as seriously.   “We’re ready to get into it early,” Marchese said. “It’s the first weekend back and it’s good to get a little jump on it. Hopefully we can get some momentum going for the season because it picks up quick…. We treat it like it’s war.”   The Duke Invitational will begin Saturday at noon against Elon, and will continue into Sunday when the Blue Devils face East Tennessee State at 10 a.m. In Duke’s final match of the tournament, the Blue Devils host North Carolina Monday at 2 p.m. All matches will be held in the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.  The Blue Devils play their first regular season match Jan. 23, when they face Elon again, this time in a match that counts in the standings. 

Blue Devils split 3 in Madison

(08/31/09 8:00am)

A start to a new season brought good experience and tough challenges for the Blue Devils, as they took two of three matches at the InnTower Invitational. The event brought together Wisconsin, South Dakota, Ohio and Duke in a two-day tournament in Madison, Wisc. Duke started off strong Friday night with a 3-2 win against the host Badgers and some impressive play from their more experienced players. Junior middle blocker Becci Burling lead the team with a career-high 11 blocks while senior Rachael Moss and sophomore Sophia Dunworth each had 16 kills against Wisconsin. The Blue Devils then defeated South Dakota before falling to Ohio in the tournament finale. Sophmore setter Kellie Catanach and Moss made the all-tournament team. “It was a great weekend for us,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “Playing in the Big 10 in Madison was a wonderful experience for our team. To be able to pull out a strong win our first match of the season while we’re figuring out our identity was tremendous. Our team came through and held in mentally and chugged away to make things happen.” After a strong performance against the Badgers, the Blue Devils played South Dakota in a match that gave the freshman some quality playing time and Nagel the opportunity to see her new recruits in action. In a 3-0 win, freshman Megan Hendrickson hammered down 12 kills and finished with a .375 hitting percentage—an impressive statistic in just her second collegiate match. “I was really proud of the team and how we did in all the matches,” Moss said. “The freshman really stepped up and fit in really well with the chemistry of the team. It was very competitive and we worked really well together and that was great to see.” “Against South Dakota, we maintained our level throughout the match,” Nagel said. “We were able to get a lot of freshman in and I was excited that the entire team could get experience to help grow. Sometimes you change one person and everything goes away but not this weekend—we were making changes without a lapse.” Finishing off the tournament with a match that the Blue Devils knew would be a challenge, Duke fell to Ohio, 3-0. The Bobcats, an experienced team that returned virtually ever starter from last season, came out aggressively against the Blue Devils and stayed on the attack throughout the entire match. Although Nagel saw moments of intensity from her team, she said  Duke needs to stay forceful more consistently if it is going to be successful against other top competitors. Looking forward to its next match, Duke travels to Georgia Sept. 4 to compete in the Georgia Dawgs Invitational with the host Bulldogs, South Alabama and Tennessee State. Moss and the Blue Devils are anxious for yet another opportunity to test their play in an out-of-conference setting. “We can see ourselves peaking pretty soon,” Moss said. “We can only go forward from here. We are getting better each day in practice. The vibe was very positive this weekend and any mistakes we made we can’t wait to try and fix.”