CARY, N.C. – The third-seeded Florida State men’s tennis team (27-3) earned their second win over Duke (16-13) in five days with a 4-1 win. The Noles advanced the semifinals of the ACC Tournament and will take on North Carolina tomorrow at 2 p.m.
“I thought it was really great to come from behind to win after losing the doubles point,” said head coach Dwayne Hultquist. “Duke played great in the doubles and really stepped it up to get the point. I think one of the keys to the match was how several of the guys got to some big early leads. Lucas was on fire. He went three sets with the same guy the other day and was not able to finish. He was able to win 6-0, 6-0 and Alex was almost able to do the same. They quickly turned the match from being behind to us being ahead. Aziz beat a top-20 guy two times in a row which is really tough to do. He really dominated the second set.”
After taking the doubles point from the Blue Devils a week ago the Seminoles could not hold on today. They got out to a quick 3-1 lead on court three and turned that into their first doubles win as redshirt senior Jose Gracia and senior Terrell Whitehurst won 6-2. On court one senior Guy Iradukunda and sophomore Alex Knaff fell behind 4-1. The pair fought back to narrow it to 5-4 but it was not enough as they lost 6-4. Redshirt senior Lucas Poullain and junior Aziz Dougaz were in a tough battle as they were going back and forth tied 5-5 Duke went on to win the final two games and clinch the doubles point with a 7-5 win on court two.
Poullain tied things up for Florida State on court three. He did not surrender a singles game as he dominated Duke’s 116th ranked Nick Stachowiak, 6-0, 6-0.
“It feels great to win like that,” said Poullain. “I just wanted to beat that guy once since I played him twice and lost once and could not finish last weekend in a third set. I just wanted to win, and I played really well. Tomorrow is a great opportunity for revenge and I think we have a shot.”
Knaff tried to match his teammate as he went on to take his set 6-0 on court five. In the second set, he got out to a 5-0 lead but could not finish it as he surrendered a game. Knaff finished off Duke’s Spencer Furman 6-1 in the second set to give the Noles their first lead of the match.
“I played the same guy I did last week and last week was a tough match,” said Knaff. “I knew how to play him and played my game and it worked really well. I am really happy about the win and the team’s win. We were really dominating and tomorrow we have a chance to win and we will give our best and hope we can win and keep advancing.”
Dougaz gave the Noles a 3-1 lead with another huge win on court one. For the second time in a week, he took down No. 17 Nicolas Alvarez. Dougaz went back and forth in the first set. Down 5-6 he forced a tiebreaker and went on to win it. In the second set, Dougaz ran right through Alvarez on his way to a 6-1 win.
“I think it is a good win for me and a good win for the team,” said Dougaz. “We know our goal for this tournament and we know we can beat everyone. This win is already in the past and we are thinking about tomorrow.”
Gracia clinched his second match of the season with a big win on court four. Gracia was down 4-5 in the first and was able to tie it up at five. The set then went into a tiebreaker which saw Jose come out on top. In the second set, Gracia jumped out to an early 2-1 lead. He was up 5-2 before Duke came back to tie it up at five all. Gracia went on to win the next two games and clinch the match.
“It is a good win,” said Gracia. “Even though we lost the doubles point we got two really quick wins and got a good one on court one from Aziz. I was up a break and the second and he came back and battled but I was able to come away with the win. It is always a good opportunity to play UNC again, a top-5 program, and we are ready to battle tomorrow.”
“We are doing the North Carolina, Duke combination two weeks in a row and we have a great opportunity tomorrow and we need to go for it,” said Hultquist. “We have a good opportunity to reverse last Friday night.”
The Seminoles will take on North Carolina tomorrow at 2 p.m. with a shot of advancing to the ACC Tournament finals.
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