DURHAM, N.C. – It took three third sets and more than four hours, but it was worth the wait as the No. 21 Duke men’s tennis team came back for a 4-3 victory versus No. 37 Virginia on Friday evening inside Ambler Tennis Stadium. The Blue Devils trailed 3-2 before capturing the final two decisions, three-set wins from redshirt junior Nicolas Alvarez and freshman Sean Sculley with Sculley notching the clinching point in a tiebreaker on court six. Sculley also helped give Duke an early 1-0 advantage as he and sophomore Nick Stachowiak clinched the doubles point in the tiebreaker.
In singles, Sculley trailed 4-1 in the third set before coming back for a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4) victory. The clinch for Sculley was his second of the season as he also tallied one against Coastal Carolina on February 24. The win was also Duke’s second by a 4-3 final as it topped No. 22 Notre Dame 4-3 on February 18 at the ITA Team Indoor Championship in Seattle.
“That was just a great college tennis match,” head coach Ramsey Smith said. “Those were two teams competing at a really high level and fighting until the very end. It was a great atmosphere. I am so impressed with Virginia and how they bounced back after losing the doubles point. They took it to us in a couple singles spots. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what exactly happened. We had a lot of great competing out there. I'm so happy for our team.”
The win snapped Duke’s 16-match losing streak to the Cavaliers and was the Blue Devils’ first in Durham against Virginia since a 7-0 decision on April 5, 2003. No current member of the Duke roster had ever won a singles match against Virginia.
The Blue Devils are now 13-8 overall and 4-2 in the ACC while Virginia slips to 11-6 overall and 4-2 in league play. Duke’s 4-2 ACC start is its best since going 4-2 in 2015.
Friday’s marathon began with Duke winning the doubles point for the second straight match, capturing a dramatic tiebreaker on court one for the final decision. The Blue Devils took the early edge in doubles with a 6-3 victory on court three by junior Ryan Dickerson and sophomore Spencer Furman against Ammar Alhaqbani and Spencer Bozsik. With a 3-3 tie, Dickerson and Furman won the final three games for the win. The duo was playing together for the first time this spring and is now 3-1.
Seconds later Virginia responded with a 6-4 win by Carl Soderlund and Matthew Lord on court two against juniors Jason Lapidus and Catalin Mateas. After taking a 2-0 lead, Lapidus and Mateas fell behind 4-2. The Blue Devils rallied with a break and hold to knot the set at 4-4, but Soderlund and Lord answered with a hold and break to end the match. Lapidus and Mateas, playing together for the first time this spring, improve to 5-2 overall.
All eyes turned to court one, where Sculley and Stachowiak fought off three set points to defeat Aswin Lizen and Gianni Ross, 7-6 (7). Sculley and Stachowiak broke and held to open the match and were ahead 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 before Lizen and Ross rattled off three consecutive games to lead 6-5. Stachowiak and Sculley answered with a hold to send the deciding match to the tiebreaker. The Blue Devil pair trailed 2-0 before evening the tiebreaker at 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4. Virginia won the next two points to go up 6-4. Duke fought off two set points for a 6-6 tie. The Cavaliers took another point to lead 7-6, but Duke took the final three points for the victory. Sculley and Stachowiak up their overall record to 11-10 and are 6-8 in dual action and 1-2 in the ACC.
🔵😈 fight off 3 set points and come back for 7-6 (7) win on court one. Duke leads 1-0 heading to singles pic.twitter.com/lj6q2Awg2g— Duke Men's Tennis (@DukeMTEN) March 30, 2018
“That was a huge point, especially looking back,” Smith said of the early 1-0 lead. “We lost a lot of close doubles points recently. I was proud of the guys to really step up and pull out that tiebreaker. It gave us the momentum and set the tone for the match.”
In singles, Virginia quickly answered and evened the match at 1-1 overall as Lord defeated Furman 6-4, 6-2 on court four. Furman took a 3-1 lead in the opening set, but Lord stormed back and tied the set at 3-3. Furman went up 4-3, but Lord took the final three games for the set. In the second set, Furman fell behind 3-0 before narrowing the gap to 3-2. Lord again ran off the last three games. Furman tips to 14-9 overall, 4-6 in dual action and 2-3 in ACC play.
The Cavaliers then took a 2-1 lead with a win on court two, where No. 32 Lizen defeated No. 113 Mateas 7-5, 6-3. After Mateas captured a 2-0 lead to start the match, the set was even at 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 and 5-5 before a hold and break ended it in Lizen’s favor. In the second set, Lizen turned a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 advantage. Mateas got a game back, but could not even the action. He falls to 11-9 overall, 6-6 in dual matches and 4-2 against league foes.
Duke evened the score at 2-2 when sophomore Robert Levine defeated Alhaqbani 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 on court five. Levine breezed through the first set and was even at 1-1 in the second set before Alhaqbani took a 3-1 lead. Levine answered with a hold, break and hold to take a 4-3 advantage. Alhaqbani rallied again with the final three games to force the third set, during which Levine did not drop a game. Levine ups his record to 10-7 overall, 7-6 in dual competition and 3-1 in ACC matches.
Virginia regained the lead at 3-2 overall with a 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-3 win by No. 120 Ross against Stachowiak on court three. Ross flew through the first set and led 5-3 in the second, but Stachowiak came back with a hold, break and hold to go ahead 6-5. Ross held on his serve to force the tiebreaker. Stachowiak led 3-1 and Ross cut the deficit to 3-2 before Stachowiak ripped off the final four points. In the third set, Ross went on a hold-break-hold run to turn a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 advantage. Stachowiak got the deficit to two games at 4-2 and 5-3, but Ross served out for the win. Stachowiak dips to 22-8 overall, 11-5 in dual action and 3-2 in ACC play.
“It really started with Nick and winning the second set,” Smith said. “I really thought that was the turning point of singles. It gave us a lot of hope because we were struggling in some spots.”
Seconds later No. 17 Alvarez evened the match at 3-3 as he downed No. 38 Soderlund 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3 on court one. Soderlund was ahead 4-1 in the first set before Alvarez took three straight to even the set. The two held serve in the final four games to send it to the tiebreaker. Alvarez led 4-2 in the tiebreaker before Soderlund knotted it at 4-4. Soderlund then took three of the final four points for the set. The second set had Alvarez down 4-2 before tallying the final four games to force the deciding set. The final set was even at 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 before Alvarez held, broke and held to capture the match. He improves to 12-4 overall, 7-2 in dual matches and 3-2 versus ACC foes. Alvarez is now 5-3 against nationally ranked foes.
Sculley’s final point came from a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4) win versus Kyrylo Tsygura. The first set was tied at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4 before Sculley held and broke for the win. The second set had Tsygura turn a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 advantage. Sculley came back and evened the set at 4-4. It was knotted at 5-5 before Tsygura broke and held to force the deciding set. The final set was knotted at 1-1 before Tsygura went on a break, hold and break run to go up 4-1. Sculley answered with a break, hold and break to even the set. Both players exchanged breaks and holds and it went to the tiebreaker. With the tiebreaker even at 1-1 and 2-2, Sculley slipped ahead 4-2. Tsygura got it down to one point at 4-3 and 5-4, but Sculley took the final two points for the win. Sculley ups his overall mark to 16-10 and is now 8-7 in dual matches and 4-1 in league action. Sculley and Mateas are tied for the team lead in ACC victories.
“It came down to Sean,” Smith said. “All through the recruiting process I thought he was a clutch player who lived for the big moment. He certainly had an opportunity to show his toughness at the end.”
“I got down 4-1, but I wasn’t playing badly,” Sculley added. “He [Tsygura] was coming up with some really good shots. I lost three deuce points and just kept telling myself to keep fighting. It’s unbelievable.”
Duke returns to action Friday, April 6, at No. 25 Notre Dame with a 3:30 p.m. match.
#21 Duke 4, #37 Virginia 3
March 30, 2018 at Durham, N.C. (Ambler Tennis Stadium)
1. Sean Sculley/Nick Stachowiak (DU) def. Aswin Lizen/Gianni Ross (VA) 7-6 (9-7)
2. Carl Soderlund/Matthew Lord (VA) def. Catalin Mateas/Jason Lapidus (DU) 6-4
3. Ryan Dickerson/Spencer Furman (DU) def. Ammar Alhaqbani/Spencer Bozsik (VA) 6-3
1. #17 Nicolas Alvarez (DU) def. #38 Carl Soderlund (VA) 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3
2. #32 Aswin Lizen (VA) def. #113 Catalin Mateas (DU) 7-5, 6-3
3. #120 Gianni Ross (VA) def. Nick Stachowiak (DU) 6-1, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3
4. Matthew Lord (VA) def. Spencer Furman (DU) 6-4, 6-2
5. Robert Levine (DU) def. Ammar Alhaqbani (VA) 6-1, 4-6, 6-0
6. Sean Sculley (DU) def. Kyrylo Tsygura (VA) 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4)
Virginia 11-6, 4-2 ACC; National ranking #37
Duke 13-8, 4-2 ACC; National ranking #21
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (4,2,5,3,1,6)
Official: Nick Flentie T-4:21 A-320