Blue Devils ready for ACC powerhouse Virginia
Duke takes on tough competition at home in Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion against Virginia Friday before the women return to race against Richmond Saturday.
The latest NCAA poll ranked the Cavaliers No. 18 on the men’s side while the College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll has the women's team at No. 9, making Virginia the second-highest ranked team in the ACC behind North Carolina.
“Virginia has had a history of great teams,” head coach Dan Colella said. “What we tell the team is that these are the same individuals that we are going to see in three or four weeks at ACCs. It’s a great opportunity to race some of the best talent, not only in the ACC, but in the country.”
On the men’s side, Parker Camp leads the Cavaliers with the team’s top times in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle, 100- and 200-yard butterfly and 200-yard individual medley. Virginia boasts a deep roster in the 200-yard stroke events, distance freestyles and both medley events.
The Blue Devils could steal a few first-places in the sprint freestyles and the relays with strong performances by freshmen Bradley Cline and James Peek. For Duke to keep up with the Cavaliers, the team cannot miss opportunities to score points with second or third-place finishes.
“Our expectation is that we’re going to stand up and give them everything that we have,” Colella said. “We’ll see where it all shakes out at the end, but ultimately we want to walk away knowing that we really gave it everything that we had.”
The team will look to senior diver Nick McCrory to dominate the boards and secure key points early in the meet. McCrory—named ACC Male Diver of the Week for the fourth time last Tuesday—will face Virginia’s current record-holder in both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard, JB Kolod.
On the women’s side, the Cavaliers have earned five NCAA “A” automatic-qualifying cuts and 43 “B” cuts so far this season, with a time standard achieved by at least one athlete in every NCAA event.
Leah Smith has dominated the distance freestyle events with season-best times of 4:36.19 and 15.57.44 in the 500-yard freestyle and the mile, respectively. Courtney Bartholomew paces Virginia in the backstroke events, turning in times of 50.73 seconds in the 100-yard event and 1:50.55 in the 200-yard race so far this season.
Freshman Maddie Rusch and senior Lauren Weaver have an opportunity to take first and second in the 50-yard freestyle. Both Blue Devils have recorded season-best times faster than any Cavalier.
“We have to stand up and we have to race truthfully the best that we have all season,” Colella said. “We are in the early stages of our championship season, so we should be swimming sharp. We have the ability to surprise them in some areas.”
Duke's men's team only has one meet this weekend, but women will turn around and compete against Richmond at home Saturday afternoon.
The Spiders are led by Mali Kobelja—the Atlantic 10 Conference Women's Swimming and Diving Performer of the Week. Kobelia’s strengths include the sprints, both breaststroke events and 200-yard freestyle and individual medley.
“Richmond doesn’t necessarily have the depth that Virginia has, but they certainly have some talented ladies who will give us some great races,” Colella said. “The key thing for us will be being able to turn around after a big meet, come in and swim hard the next morning.”