The Blue Devils have opened up their spring season at Palos Verdes Golf Club for each of the past six years with decent success—including four top-five results—but have yet to record a victory at the familiar par-71 course.

After an impressive fall that included three team and three individual victories, this year’s Blue Devils are looking to break that trend and add another tally to the win column.

No. 4 Duke will tee off in Palos Verdes, Calif., Sunday through Tuesday for the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, the team’s inaugural event of 2018. Also competing will be six other top-10 teams, calling for the Blue Devils to hit the ground running and return to peak competitive form despite more than three months off from tournament play. Head coach Dan Brooks characterized the time off as being about hard practice and maintenance rather than about players making significant changes to their game.

“We didn’t really change anything. Nobody went into any further projects,” Brooks said. “Everything was just good hard work. We dealt with some weather, but we always do in the winter, so I think despite that weather we’re in pretty good shape.”

Leading the Blue Devil charge this week will be Leona Maguire, who holds the team’s lowest stroke average of 69.2 and captured two individual victories in the fall at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational and the Jim West Challenge. The senior is in prime position to continue that success to begin the new year, as she tied for the lowest individual score at last year’s tournament with a four-under par ledger thanks to rounds of 68, 71 and 70.

“What I like the most is the way she’s swinging the club,” Brooks said. “She’s actually swung the club all year very, very well and just seems to constantly be getting better, so she’s a worker and she’s handled a lot of pressure in the past so she’s a veteran in that respect, so I’m really excited about her final spring semester.”

For the second time this season, Maguire will be joined in the lineup by her sister Lisa, who Brooks singled out for making solid progress on her game during the winter offseason. Despite playing only once in the fall, Maguire brings three years and nine competitive rounds of experience at Palos Verdes Golf Club to this year’s event. The Cavan, Ireland native has struggled at the 6,017-yard track, though, carding just four career rounds in the 70’s.

Joining Duke on the West Coast will be a flurry of the nation’s top talent, including No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Stanford and No. 8 Texas. The Crimson Tide and the Blue Devils will continue a particularly hard-fought, neck-and-neck rivalry that began in the fall, as Alabama finished behind the Blue Devils by a single stroke in two consecutive events in October. In vying for this week’s title, the teams will compete on a tricky course with plenty of slope and elevation changes that Brooks noted will challenge players in their club selections.

“It’s a very good field. That’s the thing that can keep you from winning it,” Brooks said. “It’s a course that you wish you could have five practice rounds on, but we’ll just have to get everything we can out of one.”

Ana Belac returns to this year’s Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge after having tied for eighth there a year ago with three rounds of even-par 71. The sophomore from Portoroz, Slovenia, is in great shape to improve upon that finish, as she boasts a 70.6 scoring average and ended the fall season with her first career individual title by tying for first at the Landfall Tradition.

The flu has hit the Duke community particularly hard this year, and the women’s golf team was no exception—junior Virginia Elena Carta was originally scheduled to start this week, but came down with the flu leading up to Friday’s departure for California, taking her out of competition. Replacing Carta will be freshman Miranda Wang, who steadily improved throughout three events in the fall, culminating in a career-best tie for 18th at the Landfall Tradition.

Jaravee Boonchant will round out the Blue Devil lineup after recording one of the best fall seasons by a freshman in team history, as the Bangkok native’s 70.3 fall scoring average—which yielded two top-10 finishes—was the best ever by a Duke freshman. For Brooks, Boonchant’s ability to adapt and play well no matter the circumstances set her apart from other freshmen he’s coached, and should allow for a successful outing to begin her spring season.

“It’s ironic, she’s from Thailand and hasn’t played in real cold weather, but this qualifier we just played in was as cold as any qualifier we’ve played in and she did really well,” Brooks said. “So she can handle it. She’s a tough competitor.”