For the Blue Devils, big things can come in small packages, as the five-person team kicks off ACC tournament action Thursday in Cary, N.C.
Duke (14-8, 5-5 in the ACC) begins its quest for an 18th ACC title at 3 p.m. against No. 11 seed Virginia Tech at the Cary Tennis Park. Even with a shorthanded squad, the Blue Devils are eager to take on the top teams in the conference and show what they are made of.
“This is what we do all of our work for,” head coach Jamie Ashworth told GoDuke.com. “Going back to all of our conditioning in the fall, early mornings or whatever it is.”
Three of Duke’s five players were awarded All-ACC recognition for the 2013 season. Senior captain Mary Clayton was selected to the team for the first time in her career, while junior Hanna Mar and sophomore Ester Goldfeld both hold two-time All-ACC honors.
Duke’s 17 ACC Tournament victories speak to the program’s long history of success in the conference. Last season, the Blue Devils’ perfect 11-0 record carried them to their 17th ACC championship, and this year the team expects nothing less than excellence.
“Our expectations are the same,” Ashworth said. “We believe and we know that we can be one of the best teams in the conference.”
The Blue Devils will take on Virginia Tech (13-11, 2-9) for the 19th time in program history. Duke owns an 18-0 record against the Hokies, which includes this season’s overwhelming 4-1 victory in March. But that victory came before Goldfeld fractured her hand, leaving the Blue Devils one player short on their roster ever since.
Despite a tough loss to Maryland last Friday, Duke knows that in order to be successful against top conference opponents, they will need to put everything else aside and concentrate on executing the game plan.
In order to swing the match in Duke’s favor Ashworth said that all the girls have to do is put pressure on their opponents and play with confidence. Even though their seeding is not as high as it has been in the past, the Blue Devils pose a threat to every team they play.
“We can prove that we can win these matches,” Ashworth said. “We can prove that even though we only have five players, it’s going to take a heck of an effort to beat us.”