DURHAM, N.C. – One of best rivalries in collegiate athletics had another chapter added Saturday as the No. 8 North Carolina men’s tennis team held off No. 12 Duke, 4-3, in a back-and-forth affair at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center.
The Blue Devils dropped a narrow doubles point and bounced back with the first two singles wins to take a 2-1 advantage. The Tar Heels rallied with consecutive decisions to go up 3-2, but Duke answered again to knot the match at 3-3 overall. A 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory on court two by No. 39 Benjamin Sigouin proved to be the decisive point as he defeated sophomore Spencer Furman. Sigouin, a freshman, has lost just one dual match this season.
Redshirt junior Nicolas Alvarez gave the Blue Devils their 2-1 advantage with an upset of the No. 1 player in the country as he defeated William Blumberg in straight sets. The victory for Alvarez was the fifth of his career against a top-10 opponent and the first in a dual match since downing No. 10 Julian Lenz of Baylor 6-4, 6-2 on February 13, 2015. It was the first time a Blue Devil upended the nation’s top player since Jason Tahir downed Sebastian Stiefelmeyer of Louisville 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 on January 8, 2015.
Junior Catalin Mateas also moved into the Duke record book with his ninth consecutive ACC singles victory, which knotted the match at 3-3 overall. Mateas is now tied for the sixth longest league winning streak in program history.
“I thought it was a great match,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “It’s tough to lose, but I’m proud of my guys. I thought we left everything out on the court. We put ourselves in position to win and did a lot of really good things. North Carolina is obviously a great team that came up with a couple big points towards the end in the third sets. Overall it was a great match that I think we can take a lot of positives from. If we keep putting forth that effort, competing that well and bringing that energy, good things are going to happen.”
The Tar Heels won the doubles point with decisions on courts two and one. UNC took the first win as the pair of Sigouin and Anu Kodali defeated Alvarez and Mateas on court two, 6-2. With the Blue Devil pair down 2-1, a deuce point went in favor of the Tar Heels, who broke and held to go up 4-1. Duke never got closer than two games the rest of the way. Alvarez and Mateas dip to 3-4 overall, all in dual matches.
Duke tallied its win on court three, where junior Jason Lapidus and freshman Sean Sculley paired for the first time this spring and picked up a 6-3 win against Simon Soendergaard and Mac Kiger. Lapidus and Sculley broke in the second game and won a deuce point in the third game to take a 3-0 lead. The Tar Heels did not get closer than two games the rest of the way.
For Duke’s third straight match, the point came down to court one, where No. 6 Blumberg and Robert Kelly took down sophomores Nick Stachowiak and Furman, 7-5. With the match even at 2-2, the Tar Heel duo broke to go up 3-2. Duke responded immediately with a break, hold and break, despite trailing 40-0, to go up 5-3. The Tar Heels rallied with the final four games of the match for the victory. Stachowiak and Furman fall to 3-3 overall in their first dual match of the season.
“We had chances,” Smith said of Duke’s doubles performance. “We had double match point to clinch. I thought we played tremendous, especially on courts one and three. It was one of those things where we just didn’t get it. But I thought we did a great job of rebounding in singles. Instead of hanging our heads, we challenged the guys to grab the momentum on their courts, which we did.”
The Blue Devils responded quickly, evening the match at 1-1 overall as Stachowiak downed Josh Peck, 6-1, 6-1 on court four. Stachowiak led 2-0 in the opening set. Peck got a game back, but Stachowiak ran off the last four. In the second set, Stachowiak flipped a 1-1 tie into the final five games of the match. Stachowiak improves to 21-5 overall, 10-2 in dual action and 2-0 versus league foes. In Stachowiak’s two ACC matches this season, he has lost just two games.
“Nick was amazing,” Smith said. “He and Spencer lost that tough doubles point where they had match points, but he came out super gritty and focused in singles. For him to win 6-1, 6-1 and even the score really helped the team momentum. He just keeps getting better and better. I’m really happy for him.”
Duke took its only lead of the match at 2-1 overall as No. 25 Alvarez defeated No. 1 Blumberg, 6-3, 6-4, on court one. Alvarez used an early break to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set, but Blumberg responded to knot the match at 3-3. From there, Alvarez held, broke and held to secure the set. In the second set, Alvarez again used a break to take a 3-1 lead only to have Blumberg tie the set at 3-3. Alvarez broke and held to go up 5-3. Blumberg got a game back to trail 5-4, but Alvarez served out for the victory. Alvarez remains unbeaten in dual matches at 6-0 and improves to 11-2 overall and 4-1 versus nationally ranked opponents.
“That’s a huge win for Nico,” Smith said. “I have so much respect for Blumberg and what he has done in college tennis since he arrived last year. It was one of those matches where Nico had to play aggressive and go after his shots. He stayed committed to that from the very first point to the very last point.”
Minutes later, North Carolina retied the match at 2-2 overall with Blaine Boyden topping junior Ryan Dickerson 6-2, 6-2 on court five. Dickerson led 2-1 in the opening set, but Boyden took the last five games, the final three by winning deuce points. In the second set, Boyden turned a 1-1 tie into a 5-1 lead before finishing out the match. The loss snapped Dickerson’s seven match ACC winning streak. Dickerson falls to 14-9 overall, 7-6 in dual matches and 1-1 in ACC play.
The Tar Heels regained the lead at 3-2 overall with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win by Kiger against Sculley on court six. In the opening set, Sculley was broken with the set tied 2-2 and went down 3-2 and then 4-2. Sculley got a game back to trail 4-3, but Kiger took the final two. The second set was even at 1-1 and 2-2 before Sculley took the final four games. The third set had Kiger break early to take leads of 2-0 and 3-1. Sculley climbed back and evened the set at 3-3. Kiger then held, broke and held to secure the win. Sculley drops to 13-10 overall, 5-7 in dual matches and 1-1 in league play.
The UNC lead did not last long, however, as Mateas defeated No. 120 Kelly 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on court three to even the match at 3-3. Mateas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening set, but Kelly tied it at 2-2 and 3-3 before Mateas held, broke and held to end the set. The second set was Kelly’s as he got out to 3-1 and 5-2 advantages en route to forcing the deciding set. Kelly appeared to be cruising through the third set, getting out to a 3-0 lead. Mateas climbed back to knot the set at 4-4 and then held and broke to win the match. He is now 9-6 overall, 4-3 in dual matches and 2-0 versus ACC competition.
TIED! Mateas wins 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 and it’s all even at 3-3 pic.twitter.com/AGFAqUTweR— Duke Men's Tennis (@DukeMTEN) March 10, 2018
“I’m really happy for Catalin,” Smith added. “He was down 3-0 and facing a double break in the third set. We had the last three matches all in third sets. We needed to win two of them. He has been fighting so well, especially this year. I feel bad for him that it wasn’t the clincher that got us the team win. He just keeps getting better and better. Kelly is such a tough out. That was such a great effort from Catalin.”
UNC’s final point came from Sigouin with his win over Furman. Furman put up a quick lead in the opening set, getting ahead 3-0. Sigouin answered to tie the set at 3-3. With the set even at 4-4, Sigouin broke and held. The second set had Furman again lead 3-0, but this time he pushed the lead to 4-1. Sigouin went on a three-game march to tie the set at 4-4, but Furman rallied with the last two games. In the third set, Sigouin turned a 1-1 tie into a 5-1 lead before closing out. Furman falls to 12-8 overall, 2-5 in dual action and 0-2 against ACC foes.
Up next for Duke is its spring break trip to Lake Nona, Fla., where the Blue Devils will play No. 33 TCU at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“This is a really tough stretch of matches ACC wise and with TCU as well,” Smith said. “We know that. We know guys are going to lose some matches and we may lose some team matches like this. I think it’s important to not get discouraged. It’s tough to lose a match where you feel you had a shot to win, but we did so many good things that we have to focus on.”
#8 North Carolina 4, #12 Duke 3
March 10, 2018 at Durham, N.C. (Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center)
1. #6 William Blumberg/Robert Kelly (UNC) def. Spencer Furman/Nick Stachowiak (DU) 7-5
2. Benjamin Sigouin/Anu Kodali (UNC) def. Nicolas Alvarez/Catalin Mateas (DU) 6-2
3. Jason Lapidus/Sean Sculley (DU) def. Simon Soendergaard/Mac Kiger (UNC) 6-3
1. #25 Nicolas Alvarez (DU) def. #1 William Blumberg (UNC) 6-3, 6-4
2. #39 Benjamin Sigouin (UNC) def. Spencer Furman (DU) 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
3. Catalin Mateas (DU) def. #120 Robert Kelly (UNC) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
4. Nick Stachowiak (DU) def. Josh Peck (UNC) 6-1, 6-1
5. Blaine Boyden (UNC) def. Ryan Dickerson (DU) 6-2, 6-2
6. Mac Kiger (UNC) def. Sean Sculley (DU) 6-3, 2-6, 6-3
North Carolina 11-3, 2-0 ACC; National ranking #8
Duke 10-6, 1-1 ACC; National ranking #12
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (4,1,5,6,3,2)
Official: Reliford Sanders T-2:40 A-305