The Blue Devils may be coming off a pair of tough wins, but their job gets no easier going forward.
Fresh off back-to-back home victories against No. 25 Notre Dame and No. 11 North Carolina, No. 1 Duke will head out on the road this weekend to face Virginia Tech Saturday at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center before squaring off with Wake Forest Sunday at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
The Blue Devils will be looking to use the trip to Blacksburg to avenge a tough loss to the Hokies in the first round of last year’s ACC tournament.
“There are girls on that team that have experience beating us, so we have to be ready to play and keep that in mind,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “When we played them the last time they came out and just really took it to us. They got us back on our heels a little bit, so we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The disappointment of last season's ACC tournament loss is still fresh in the minds of some Duke players, but few members of the current team participated in that match. The Blue Devils sported a short-handed lineup of just five players in last season's 4-3 defeat, and just three of those players are on the team this year.
Whether or not the rest of the current roster was still in high school or injured on the sidelines during last year's defeat is not going to stop Duke (11-1, 3-1 in the ACC) from seeking revenge this time around.
“I hope they come out with the attitude that we’re not going to let up until we get seven points, and not just say hope we to play to four,” Ashworth said. “That was the reason why I brought [last season’s loss] up yesterday—so they one, remember that and two, so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Despite the emotional significance to a rematch with Virginia Tech (9-4, 2-2), Duke is trying not to overlook its matchup with Wake Forest (8-3, 1-3). The Blue Devils' in-state rival should be motivated to face the No. 1 team in the nation.
“Wake is better than they’ve been the last couple of years,” Ashworth said. “They’re competing really well.”
The back-to-back road matches also serve as an added challenge for the Blue Devils. The team’s only other away conference match resulted in a loss to Virginia—Duke's only blemish on the season.
Two road matchups will test the Blue Devils' depth, which Ashworth said he plans to embrace when playing matches in consecutive days for the first time in more than a month.
“We’ll definitely change our lineups around this week, and see how people play in different spots,” Ashworth said. “We’re fortunate that we have eight really good players right now, and we’ll just keep rotating people around and go from there.”
The Blue Devils hope to return home at the end of the weekend with two more conference wins in tow, but are focusing less on the result and more on how each match plays into the context of their ultimate goal.
“We’re looking at [each match] more as a process than just the result,” Ashworth said. “We just want to keep getting better."