SOUTH Bend, Ind. – No. 14 Duke faced a deficit for the first time this season but was able to come through with key wins in singles for a 5-2 win on the road against No. 26 Notre Dame.
The Blue Devils had won the doubles point in all five of their previous matches but the Fighting Irish lived up to their name and came out fighting to take the doubles point on a 9-8 (7-5) tiebreaker win at the No. 2 position. Duke’s top doubles team, No. 12 Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha, did improve to 17-2 on the year with their sixth win against a ranked opponent.
“I didn’t feel like anyone panicked after we lost the doubles point and fell behind early in singles,” said head coach Ramsey Smith. “I think it was actually good for us to lose a doubles point to put us in a pressure situation where we need to win singles. It was a good test for the guys and they finished really well at the end.”
The start of singles did not look good for the Blue Devils as they trailed 4-1 on three courts (No. 4, 5, 6) and 5-0 (No. 2) on another. Cunha, Duke’s No. 1 player, was also trailing 3-1 at one point during the first set. Freshman Chris Mengel was the only one who did not face a two-game deficit in the first set.
Mengel ended up winning 6-4 in his first set while Cunha claimed an 8-6 tiebreaker win and Luke Marchese battled back from down 4-1 to take five consecutive games for the 6-4 win.
“The two guys coming from behind to win their first sets and Chris (Mengel) as well, for those three guys to find a way to win the first set was huge because otherwise we wouldn’t have had any momentum,” said Smith. “After that I could hear the guys becoming a lot more vocal and I could sense a change in momentum at the beginning of the second sets. That really helped us.”
The momentum was indeed on the Blue Devils’ side as all three players who won first sets finished their matches in straight sets and both Carleton and Jared Pinsky came back to win the final two sets of their matches with ease to give Duke the 5-2 win. The only singles loss on the day came at the No. 4 spot where Fred Saba fell to Samuel Keeton in three sets.
Both Cunha and Pinsky stayed undefeated in dual matches with Cunha now 5-0 and Pinsky 6-0. Cunha is 18-2 overall while Pinsky is 16-6. Carleton improved to 17-3, Mengel is 16-5 and Marchese is 4-1 after missing the fall with an injury.
Duke remains undefeated with a 6-0 record for the year while Notre Dame fell to 2-2.