In a season marked with seemingly alternating highs and lows, the Blue Devils desperately needed a strong showing to prove they have what it takes to hang tough against top competition.

And in its only international event of the season, Duke succeeded, staking a claim among the nation’s very best.

The Blue Devils traveled to Los Cabos, Mexico from Sunday to Tuesday to compete in the Querencia Cabo Collegiate at the Querencia Golf Club. In a field steeped with 10 top-25 teams, Duke placed fifth with a three-day 8-over-par score of 860—placing ahead of the likes of second-ranked Vanderbilt, No. 5 Baylor and No. 14 Wake Forest. Although top-ranked Oklahoma State took home the title with ease off a score with a 14-under-par 838, the Blue Devils saw three top-20 individual finishers in juniors Alex Smalley and Shrish Dwivedi and senior Jake Shuman.

“They remained focused, determined and decisive,” Duke head coach Jamie Green told GoDuke.com. “The body language and each individual's frame of mind on our squad this week seemed as good as it's been all year for an entire tournament.”

The Blue Devils opened the competition with relatively strong performances across the board, coming out of the first round in seventh with a score of 289.

Although freshman Adrien Pendaries struggled at the onset with four bogeys—including two triples in the first six holes—Shuman and Smalley finished 1-under-par and broke even, respectively. Shuman hit with pinpoint accuracy for most of the day, going under par for almost half of the holes with seven birdies and an eagle. However, a costly triple bogey on hole 4 and a pair of doubles on 1 and 16 undercut an overall stellar performance.

"I can't remember the last time I made seven birdies and an eagle in one round," Shuman told GoDuke.com. "I hit a lot of quality shots, but what I’m most proud of is how many putts I made. I've been working really hard lately in green reading and trusting my stroke, and that paid off today. I'm happy with how I handled myself and didn't let the big numbers carry over to the next hole."

Showing a degree of consistency that had been lacking for much of the season, the Blue Devils continued through the second day of competition slowly but surely creeping up the team leaderboard, this time improving by one shot to a 4-over-par 288 to slide into sixth place.

Four of the five Duke golfers competing posted the same score of 72 for the day. Although Smalley just barely missed the mark with a 73 due to four bogeys—one being a triple and one being a double—the Wake Forest, N.C., native rallied with three straight birdies to hold on to his spot in the individual top 25. Pendaries improved by five strokes from his performance on the first day, largely thanks to four birdies and an eagle on No. 9.

Although the Blue Devils often struggled in past tournaments to close out final rounds, Duke instead continued on a steady line of improvement with a 1-under-par score of 283. Leading the charge for the Blue Devils was Dwivedi, who swung for a 2-under-par 69 on the final day of competition—a five-stroke improvement from where he started. The Redwood City, Calif., native limited himself to just two bogeys and went under par with three birdies and an eagle on No. 9. Pendaries saw a similar line of consistent improvement to close the day, shooting 1-under-par with two bogeys to three birdies.

“Shrish has earned the respect of everyone on our team because of his dedication and work ethic,” Green said. “It was great to see that pay off this week with some really solid and steady play in our five-man lineup. Especially today, Shrish drove the ball in play on every hole, hit crisp iron shots and relied on his deft short game when he needed to."

By the conclusion of the contest, Smalley tied for 12th, Dwivedi tied for 16th and Shuman tied for 20th. Although neither Pendaries nor sophomore Chandler Eaton cracked the top 25, every Blue Devil competing found himself toe-to-toe with nationally-ranked competition.

Duke will look to maintain its upward trajectory March 18-20, when the Blue Devils will travel to Palm City, Fla., to compete in the Valspar Collegiate Championship at the Floridian Golf Club.