DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke men’s tennis team is set to begin its 2017 fall season Friday at the Duke James Bonk Invitational in Cary, N.C. The event will run through Sunday.
This year’s squad loses just one senior from last spring and brings back seven letterwinners. Led by head coach Ramsey Smith, who is entering his 10th season at the helm, Duke welcomes back redshirt junior Nicolas Alvarez, who missed the entire 2017 spring season due to injury. Juniors Ryan Dickerson, Jason Lapidus and Catalin Mateas and sophomores Spencer Furman, Robert Levine and Nick Stachowiak will be the anchors to this year’s lineup. Freshman Sean Sculley is the new addition to the squad.
“I’m really excited to get going,” Smith said. “We have a couple weeks of practice under our belts. It’s always fun to get the new team out there and competing. In the fall we are really trying to build and get in a lot of matches. We’re working on each player’s game, making some improvements and preparing for the spring season.”
Seven Blue Devils will take part in the Duke James Bonk Invitational, named after a former Duke chemistry professor and assistant tennis coach who passed away in 2013.
“Dr. Bonk is probably the most influential single person to the Duke tennis program,” Smith added. “He was involved with the program for 50 years as an assistant coach, volunteer assistant coach, academic adviser and mentor. He was one of the really special people who have come through this university. A few years ago we named this tournament after him and it’s a special way to kick off the fall. We are at the point where some of our younger players don’t know Dr. Bonk. I want to make sure everyone knows exactly who he is, what he did for the program and what a special person he was.”
Sculley will his Duke debut this weekend while six other Blue Devils will play their first matches of the fall.
“We’ve focused a lot this fall on building the right culture and setting the tone,” Smith said. “The guys have really put in the hard work. Sean has done a great job right off the bat fitting in with our group. I’m especially eager to watch him compete with Duke on his chest for the first time.”
On Tuesday, the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason rankings came out with Alvarez at No. 34, Furman No. 44 and Mateas No. 61. In the doubles ledger, Furman and Stachowiak are at No. 12 while Mateas and Sculley check in at No. 52.
Last spring, Duke returned to the NCAA Team Championship after missing the event in 2016. The Blue Devils reversed their ACC record from the year before, going 8-4 after posting a 4-8 ledger in 2016.
Stachowiak was named the team’s 2017 Charles Hamilton Hargrave Most Valuable Player after leading the Blue Devils in singles (32) and doubles (27) victories. Smith also became the third Duke coach to reach 175 career victories with a 5-2 triumph at Clemson on April 9.