Duke struggled to turn close finishes into victories early in the spring, but the team’s recent resurgence has made it clear that the Blue Devils are ready to contend yet again heading into the postseason.

No. 7 Duke will tee off at The Reserve Golf Club Thursday through Saturday to compete in the ACC championship, which the historically dominant Blue Devils have not won since 2014. The team saw its stars come into form during its last full-field contest and will look to carry that momentum to Pawleys Island, S.C., as it battles against 11 other teams—four of which are also ranked in the nation's top 20.

After knocking at victory’s door for three straight events to begin the spring, Duke finally earned its first stroke-play victory of the year March 24-26 at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic. Stars Leona Maguire and Virginia Elena Carta emerged in full strength for the first time this season, with the duo occupying the top two spots on the 90-player, 15-team leaderboard.

Head coach Dan Brooks' team followed up the win two weeks later with a 8-4 match play victory against then-No. 14 Northwestern.

“Northwestern, I mean they were tough,” Brooks said. “That second match they played hard and you notice Leona lost a match, so that was good competition. That was a new deal for us. Two matches, 36 holes, on the Duke course in one day. It was great. We came away with a win.”

The conference championship will be the first held at the unfamiliar 6,192-yard, par-72 Reserve Golf Club, as the event was relocated by the ACC from its original location in Greensboro, N.C., in response to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.

The change of venue could be good fortune for the Blue Devils, though, as the team struggled mightily in Greensboro the last two years—finishing a combined 56 strokes off first place—as Virginia dominated the event in 2015 and 2016.

Brooks said the new course should yield lower scores than Sedgefield Country Club, which saw a winning score of 9-under-par in 2016 and hosted the championship from 2009 to 2016. The two courses are also owned by the same company, North Carolina-based McConnell Golf.

“I’ve never been here actually,” Brooks said. “The crew, everybody here, the shop, the staff, it’s just like the other McConnell [course]. I mean everybody is just fantastic…. I would assume that the numbers are going to be lower and that there will be more teams in position to do something going into the last day.”

Just as they did at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic, Maguire and Carta paced Duke in last year’s ACC championship—both tied for 10th place at 3-over-par—and are in great position to do the same again.

Maguire has been the team’s best scorer all season and currently averages 69.6 strokes per round, as the junior has finished outside of the top three individually just once in six stroke-play events. She earned her first outright individual victory of the season at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic before going 1-1 against Northwestern, losing her afternoon match 2-and-1.

A native of Udine, Italy, Carta also posted her best result of the season in Baton Rouge, as the sophomore shot 73, 67 and 70 to earn solo second four strokes behind Maguire. Last year’s individual national champion was the only Duke player to go winless against Northwestern, though, but Brooks said a recent grip change since then should allow Carta to have a successful postseason opener.

“I see her as in a better position to play well here than at the Northwestern match,” Brooks said. “We just weakened her grip a little bit, and we really have just put it back to where it was when she won nationals last year. In fact, her setup and her grip are as close to what she had back then as we can get.”

But even if Maguire and Carta are at their best, the Blue Devils should face stiff competition from No. 3 Florida State, No. 12 Wake Forest, No. 17 Miami and No. 20 N.C. State. The Seminoles bring one top-25 player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings to the event in senior No. 20 Matilda Castren, and the Demon Deacons’ No. 16 Jennifer Kupcho and No. 21 Sierra Brooks—who are ranked in the top 25 individually—will also be contending for an individual conference championship.

Duke's Gurbani Singh will tackle the Greg Norman design with the team’s third-best scoring average and the most consistent golf of her career. The junior carded rounds of 73 or lower in seven of her final nine regular-season stroke-play rounds to rattle off three straight top-16 finishes, then won both matches against the Wildcats.

Ana Belac is the team’s only newcomer to postseason play but has held her own with the team’s veterans throughout her spring slate, posting three top-10 finishes and a 73.5 scoring average. The Portoroz, Slovenia, native is coming off of her worst stroke-play performance of 2017 after a tie for 22nd but ended the LSU event strong with a season-best final round of 69 before going 1-1 against Northwestern.

Competing in her fourth and final ACC championship, Sandy Choi will try and improve from a season-worst tie-for-47th result in Baton Rouge that was marred by a second-round 81—her worst competitive score in nearly two years. She seems to have bounced back a bit already since then, as the senior won two decisive match-play victories by taking down her two Northwestern opponents 6-and-5 and 4-and-2.

As the team vies for its seventh national championship, Brooks emphasized that trust and support among his players will be key to the team’s success over the coming six weeks.

“I think the most important thing is that they pull for one another,” Brooks said. “When you have that feeling that they all know that you’re doing everything you can, it’s a wonderful feeling, and I think it makes you play better…. I see the team coming together, and there’s some good things going on.”