PALO ALTO, Calif. – Trailing 2-0, the Duke men’s tennis team rallied to take a 3-2 lead against Ole Miss in the first round of NCAA Team Championship action, but the No. 38 Rebels answered with the final two matches to claim a 4-3 victory inside the Taube Family Tennis Stadium on Saturday morning.
The No. 28 Blue Devils dropped the doubles point but rallied with consecutive singles victories by redshirt junior Nicolas Alvarez, freshman Sean Sculley and junior Ryan Dickerson. Ole Miss responded to the rally with wins on courts three and four to capture the match.
“It’s disappointing to lose, especially the last match of the season,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “There’s always a finality to it. Unless you win the whole thing, you always want to go that one step further. We weren’t able to push through, unfortunately, but I was proud of how we put ourselves in a position to win, being up 3-2 with two matches to go.”
Ole Miss secured the doubles point with wins on courts three and two. Duke took the first decision with a 6-2 victory by No. 48 Alvarez and Catalin Mateas against No. 22 Tim Sandkaulen and Grey Hamilton on one. The Blue Devils got off to a strong start, holding and breaking to go up 2-0. Ole Miss never got closer than a game the rest of the way with Duke leading 3-2 and then going on a hold, break and hold run to end the match. Alvarez and Mateas cap the year at 10-4. The Blue Devil duo improves to 6-0 against ranked opponents and ends the campaign with seven consecutive victories.
Ole Miss evened the action on court three with Fabian Fallert and Finn Reynolds upending juniors Jason Lapidus and Dickerson, 6-3. With both sides holding serve through the first six games and the match even at 3-3 overall, Fallert and Reynolds broke, held and broke to end the match. Lapidus and Dickerson finish with a 11-8 mark.
The Rebels completed the doubles win on court two, where No. 62 Filip Kraljevic and Zvonimir Babic downed Sculley and sophomore Nick Stachowiak, 6-2. The Ole Miss duo got out to a 4-0 lead and Duke got no closer than three games, trailing 4-1 and 5-2. The Rebels served out for the match. Sculley and Stachowiak cap the year with a 14-13 record.
“We didn’t play our best doubles point at two and three,” Smith said. “I thought we did a great job at one. We didn’t play our best in doubles, but I thought we did a very good job of handling the doubles point, not hanging our heads, getting back to work and competing well in singles. We won four first sets in singles and Robert [Levine] won a second set to force a third.”
Ole Miss made it a 2-0 advantage with No. 33 Sandkaulen defeating Stachowiak 6-3, 6-4 on court two. Stachowiak fell behind 3-0 in the opening set but could not get closer than two games the rest of the way, trailing 4-2 and 5-3 before Sandkaulen served out for the win. Stachowiak ends the year 25-12 overall and 14-9 in dual matches.
Duke got its first point from court one, where No. 19 Alvarez topped No. 45 Gustav Hansson, 6-3, 6-4. In the first set, Alvarez hopped ahead 3-1 before Hansson answered with a break to make it a 3-2 set. Alvarez broke back and took control at 4-2. He held two more times to take the set. In the second set, Hansson got out to a 2-0 advantage before Alvarez knotted the set at 2-2. With a 3-3 tie, Alvarez broke and held to go up 5-3. Hansson got a game back, but Alvarez served out for the win. He is now 15-8 overall, 8-5 versus ranked foes and 10-6 in dual matches.
“Nico beating Hansson, who is a top player, was great,” Smith added. “Nico had a couple tough matches coming into this, so this was huge for him, his confidence and moving forward into the individual tournament. He had a good week-and-a-half of prep and played extremely well today in singles and doubles.”
The Blue Devils knotted the match at 2-2 overall with Sculley blowing past Fallert 6-2, 6-2 on court five. Sculley led 4-1 in the opening set before closing out for the win. The second set was knotted at 2-2 before Sculley took the final four for the victory. He closes his rookie year at 19-12 overall.
A 3-2 lead was captured by Duke with Dickerson winning 6-2, 6-3 on court six against Reynolds. Dickerson turned a 1-1 tie in the opening set into a 4-1 advantage with a hold, break and hold run. Reynolds got it down to a 4-2 deficit, but Dickerson answered with a hold and break for the set. The second set featured a late Dickerson run as he flipped a 3-3 tie into the final three games for the match. Dickerson concludes the season at 19-13.
“That was probably one of Sean’s best matches of the year, beating Fallert like that,” Smith said. “Ryan did a tremendous job of being ready to play. He was the next guy in, being listed at seven, and really put in some good work the last 10 days. I trust him, put him in and it was a big win for us.”
Ole Miss answered with a win on court three to even the overall score at 3-3. On three, No. 107 Kraljevic defeated No. 106 Mateas 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. The first set was even at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4 before Mateas broke and held for the win. Kraljevic breezed through the second set to force a third. With the deciding set knotted at 1-1, Kraljevic broke and held to go up 3-1. Mateas got a game back to trail just 3-2, but Kraljevic ripped off the final three games for the match. Mateas finishes 12-15 in 2018.
With all eyes turned to court four, Hamilton pushed through sophomore Robert Levine, 6-2, 6-7 (1), 6-0. Hamilton jumped ahead 3-0 in the opening set before Levine got a game. Levine trailed 4-2, but Hamilton held and broke for the set. In the second set, Levine flipped a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead with a break and hold. Levine was up 4-2 before Hamilton held and broke to even the action at 4-4. From there, the two eventually headed to the tiebreaker, which Levine dominated to force a deciding set. Hamilton captured the first three games of the final set and never looked back en route to the win. Levine ends the year 15-11.
#38 Ole Miss 4, #28 Duke 3
May 12, 2018 at Palo Alto, Calif. (Taube Family Tennis Stadium)
1. #48 Nicolas Alvarez/Catalin Mateas (DU) def. #22 Tim Sandkaulen/Grey Hamilton (OLM) 6-2
2. #62 Filip Kraljevic/Zvonimir Babic (OLM) def. Nick Stachowiak/Sean Sculley (DU) 6-2
3. Fabian Fallert/Finn Reynolds (OLM) def. Ryan Dickerson/Jason Lapidus (DU) 6-3
1 #19 Nicolas Alvarez (DU) def. #45 Gustav Hansson (OLM) 6-3, 6-4
2. #33 Tim Sandkaulen (OLM) def. Nick Stachowiak (DU) 6-3, 6-4
3. #107 Filip Kraljevic (OLM) def. #106 Catalin Mateas (DU) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2
4. Grey Hamilton (OLM) def. Robert Levine (DU) 6-2, 6-7 (1-7), 6-0
5. Sean Sculley (DU) def. Fabian Fallert (OLM) 6-2, 6-2
6. Ryan Dickerson (DU) def. Finn Reynolds (OLM) 6-2, 6-3
Mississippi 15-12; National ranking #38
Duke 16-14; National ranking #28
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (2,1,5,6,3,4)
NCAA Team Championship First Round