(Photo: Mason Kern/WCSN)
In Arizona State’s season-opening match — and first since 2008 — the recently-reinstated Sun Devils came up short against the No. 25 Duke Blue Devils 5-2 at the Whiteman Tennis Center in Tempe.
Duke held a 3-2 lead with both remaining matches locked in third sets, until redshirt junior Nicolas Alvarez clinched the overall match with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over senior Michael Geerts on court one. Shortly after, William Kirkman dropped his third set in a tiebreaker and lost to Duke’s Ryan Dickerson 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(5).
While ASU battled well against a top-level team Geerts explained the team has bigger goals than that.
“From the beginning of the year our goal was to be up there with the best,” the senior from Antwerp, Belgium said. “We don’t want to compete just to compete. We want to beat good teams and that has to be the mindset for the whole team because that will push us to the next level.”
Getting to that “next level” won’t be an easy task for the Sun Devils, partly because their road gets tougher before they get easier. ASU hosts No. 7 Texas A&M on Sunday before facing perennial powerhouse TCU, an Elite 8 team last year, on Jan. 21.
There was a loud crowd that came out to watch the Sun Devil men’s tennis program play its first match in 10 years and Geerts noted the moment got to the team.
“A few of our guys were really nervous,” he said. “I was nervous at the beginning of the doubles. It’s all about getting those reps and playing more matches like this will give us a little more confidence in playing in these circumstances.”
Even ASU’s first match in 10 years wasn’t considered a moral victory.
“If you want to make a deep run at a national championship, like they do, these are the types of teams you’re going to have to beat and they get to see it first hand,” said head coach Matt Hill. “It’s not theoretical anymore.”
The Sun Devils don’t have much time to dwell on their season-opening loss with Texas A&M up next on Jan. 14.
“They get to see it and they get to decide after these first three tests, ‘OK what do you want? Do you want to sacrifice, put the work in and make these changes or do you not want to be in that group?’” Hill said. “They’re pissed. They’re super pissed they lost that match and I’m interested to see how they respond tomorrow.”
- Michael Geerts/Makey Rakotomalala (ASU) def. Nick Stachowiak/Sean Sculley (Duke) – 6-2
- Ryan Dickerson/Jack Lapidus (Duke) def. Benjamin Hannestad/Tim Ruehl (ASU) – 6-1
- Nicolas Alvarez/Spencer Furman (Duke) def. Thomas Wright/Andrea Bolla (ASU) – 6-3*
Order of finish: 2, 1, 3*
*clinched the doubles point
- Nicolas Alvarez (Duke) def. Michael Geerts (ASU) – 4-6, 6-2, 6-3^
- Benjamin Hannestad (ASU) def. Catalin Mateas (Duke) – 7-5, 6-3
- Spencer Furman (Duke) def. Tim Ruehl (ASU) – 6-2, 6-2
- Makey Rakotomalala (ASU) def. Nick Stachowiak (Duke) – 6-4, 6-2
- Sean Sculley (Duke) def. Andrea Bolla (ASU) – 6-3, 7-5
- Ryan Dickerson (Duke) def. William Kirkman – 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)
Order of finish: 4, 3, 5, 2, 1, 6
^clinched the overall match